Millennials make up almost one-fourth of the entire U.S. population. However, their sheer number is not the reason they are widely considered to be one of the most talked about generations.
If there is one term commonly associated with this cohort, it would probably be “Digital Natives.” A person is considered a digital native if he or she was born in what is known as “The age of information”, a time when technology has already started revolutionizing how the world works. And since Millennials are very much defined by their digital dependency, they fall right into the category.
With information readily available across multiple devices, platforms, and channels, it only seems natural that Millennials are used to getting the data they need the moment they need it. But the challenge now is how marketers can keep up with the fast-paced and very specific purchase and online behavior of millennials.
In this blog, we are going to take a few lessons from our recent podcast with Digital Press founder Nicolas Cole Mather on exactly what influences every buying decision of the Millennial generation.
Micro-moments: The Rise of “Right Now”
Millennials are very popular for always having their devices and gadgets ready. This is the very foundation of what is now called “Micro-moments.”
Google defined Micro-moments as occurrences when “people reflexively turn to a device- increasingly a smartphone- to act on a need to learn something, do something, or discover something, watch something, or buy something.” The doors that all digital innovations have opened have led today’s generation to expect immediate delivery of their needs and has brands playing catch up. This is a reality Cole also shared on our recent podcast when he said that
“The millennial generation, they wanna know things when they wanna know them or they want to meet people when they want to meet them or they want to create their own schedule when they wanna create it.”
In this digital age, penetrating your market’s micro-moments can be as simple as making your brand available on a platform they are most comfortable in- on mobile and connected to the internet. This means your online presence should not be limited to just being a mere “presence” but an actual resource they can depend on when they need a question answered. When someone types in “Where to buy customized shoelaces?” and you are a shoelace brand with no website or active social media account, then you are losing a significant share of your market to another company who does.
Now, it is not just enough that you have an aesthetically-pleasing website, it also has to be mobile-responsive, search engine-friendly, informative, entertaining, and purposeful. Your social media accounts need not be just a feed of product promotions but a glimpse into the values your brand lives by.
It may sound like a lot of work but at the end of the day, it is all about meeting Millennials where they are and being present the moment they need to hear from you.
User Experience: Design and Interface
The popularity of image and video-based social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest is a reflection on how Millennials put emphasis on the importance of visual graphics. Today, #FeedGoals is a hashtag not just exclusive for those in the design profession and industry but to anyone who wants to achieve a particular social media aesthetic. This makes Instagram more than just a platform to post company events or product photos but as a channel for brands to establish their visual identity. And with Facebook become more and more saturated with unverified and unauthorized pages and accounts, it only makes sense that Instagram is fastly becoming the top social media platform for brands to reach a market as visual as Millennials.
The importance of user experience, in terms of both design and interface, is also evident in the trends we see in website and mobile applications. Now, developing a brand’s online presence is not only about how functional it is, but more importantly, how easy it is to find and use. It may seem contradicting, especially since Millennials are digital natives and they can analyze their way through probably any new technology being released but they do have high expectations when it comes to smooth and slick user interface. This is a reality brands should really start focusing their energies on especially since industry research indicated that Millennials are about to enter their prime spending years.
Organic Approach: Pulling, Not Pushing
The advent of technology has given the Millennial market the power to become some of the most informed buyers out there. Their purchase behavior is very different from the generations before them with the internet almost always being the beginning and end of their buying journey. With product and service reviews easily searchable with a click of a mouse, influencing Millennials is not as simple as publishing a commercial or putting up a billboard.
If you want your brand to make a good lasting impression, then say goodbye to your old hard-selling habits because that would not work in this cohort. As Cole mentioned,
“A great example of how to sell in today’s economy is to not tell someone, “Go buy this,” but instead, to share something of value and then saying, “And by the way, it’s here if you want it.”
The approach is pretty straightforward, when you think about it- you do not concentrate on coming up with ways to push your product to the market, instead, you create a product so valuable it will eventually pull them in.
This is the very reason that the organic approach to marketing, be it in search engines (through optimization) or social media, remain to be the most effective strategy to reach the Millennial market. Yes, paid ads still has plays a significant role but just like in traditional marketing, paying for advertisements can only go a long way compared to the lasting and immediate impact of word-of-mouth.
It all boils down to the personality of Millennials; they are notorious for being the generation who knows exactly what they want so they will only find pop-up web ads or mid-roll video ads intrusive to their online time.
Remember how we told you to meet them where they are and being there at the moment they need you? That is another way of us telling you to invest on organic tactics- their job is to search for you, and your brand’s job is to make sure they find you as fast and easy as possible.
Brand Storytelling: The More Important Kind of Marketing
What brand storytelling really is…
A brand story is a marketing approach designed in a narrative way with the goal of evoking an emotional reaction from its audience. The concept is founded on the idea of going beyond functionality, utility, and product specifications, and into framing what your brand values and really stands for.
The great thing about how brand storytelling has evolved is that technology has made it into a more interactive concept. Before the digital age, brand stories usually had a sole author- you. However, today, at a time when social media has opened a two-way communication between brand and audience, brand stories can be more effective when co-created with your followers, fans, and customers.
How an effective brand story is made
A brand story is a merry mix of basic branding and a whole lot more. Yes, you have your logo, colors, and even your tagline but a brand story requires you to do exactly what the name suggest- to tell a tale.
First, determine your voice so you know just how to speak to your audience. Are you conversational and casual or serious and professional? Are you logical or emotional? It is important to set your tone and your voice because it is one of the major factors that will influence what your market will feel once they see your story.
Next is to make sure your story aligns with your brand’s overall mission and vision. It can be very easy to ignore or even forget about your company’s mission and vision, no matter how many times you have it plastered on the walls of the office, but everything your business does goes back to these two; and so is your brand story. Why? Because that’s your core message. Whatever campaign you create, it should support what your company’s goals are.
Another crucial cog to an effective brand story are your company’s core values. Market studies have revealed that Millennials are more likely to purchase a product when a brand appeals to their values. We are not just talking about what you believe in, but what you do to affirm those beliefs. If you are a clothing brand that puts emphasis on anti-cruelty, then you better own up to it by making sure all your products are testaments to that belief. It is not enough to sell your product, you have to market your purpose, too.
Last, but definitely not the least, is to make your story relevant, timely, and relatable. You are appealing to the emotional side of your market so you have to be creative when it comes to thinking of narratives that will elicit a certain kind of emotion from them. This is why most brands go for stories related to either relationships or nostalgia; after all, everybody, even Millennials, has experienced both. Cole also talked about this on the podcast when he said that it’s about trying to
“figure out what they’re already willing to pay attention to and finding a creative way to weave your brand or your story into that narrative.“
Why brand storytelling works
Oversaturation in the digital world means having to think of creative ways to rise above the competition to get your market’s attention. This is why brand storytelling works better than traditional advertising- it offers something different by establishing an emotional connection with the audience. Add that to the fact that storytelling is an inherent human activity and it’s easy to see why this kind of marketing is taking the world by storm. Millennials are already living in at a time when everything is technology-driven and even though they find that convenient, they all still look for ways to feel a personal and human connection in every interaction they do both online and offline.
But brand stories are only effective when you do it with honesty and authenticity. Millennials are less trusting compared to earlier generations especially with the massive amount of knowledge present in the internet ready to affect their decisions. If you want to truly stand out and make a difference as a brand, you have to be genuine- market your product not for sale but for it to serve a much bigger purpose, a purpose your market will eventually share.
This is also the reason content has gone a very different way in social media. As Cole said,
“people go online for two reasons, they either wanna be entertained or they wanna learn. That’s pretty much it. And so, you either need to speak the entertainment language and find a way to make your customer laugh or be engaged and then find ways to weave your brand into that without like, “And now a cut from our sponsors.”
Now, hard-sell posts that just simple and straightforwardly markets the best features of your product don’t work anymore. If you really want your audience to remember you, you have to put that product into a story they will relate to, after all, your product is an attempt to solve a particular gap or need, right? Then focus your energies into telling that story from problem to solution to success.