Last week on Friday I participated in a panel on marketing to millennials (the generation born in the 80s and 90s) as part of the Digital Media Conference. Unlike some other panels I’ve seen in the past which can get a bit insular with everyone offering the same opinion – the group collected for this one offer a quite diverse range of experiences. Two of the standouts were Pam Quandt, a marketing VP at a virtual avatar company called Bandalong Entertainment and Bill Strauss, author of a number of books about the Millennial generation. Both offered an interesting perspective on how millenials think and how they are different to earlier generations, and in particular Generation X (and even my generation, which Wikipedia calls the MTV Generation). Aside from the obvious topics of multitasking and their aversion to marketing – the panel also touched on the increasing role of this generation in influencing purchases from older generations, and how they are far less likely to be cynical about the world than most older generations assume. This is interesting in the context of marketing, as much of what is published about marketing to this group assumes Millennials to be allergic to all kinds of marketing. This is just plain wrong.
The fact is, there are many situations where they are actively seeking marketing messages. It is clear that interruption marketing will never work with this group. They know every trick to get around ads and are used to ignoring ads and using technology like Tivo, ad blockers, or other hacks to get around them. But they are also active seekers of marketing information when it is relevant. They conduct online research prior to purchase. They send links to others. They read reviews on Amazon, what bloggers say about a product, and visit manufacturers websites. And they pass all of this information along to others. This desire to learn about the products and services they buy, as well as the ability to find all information (good or bad) online about it make them the generation most likely to interact with branded marketing messages along with any other consumer generated content about your brand online. Of all your consumers, they are likely to know the most about your product before purchasing (or deciding not to purchase). Providing the right level of detail matters. For Millennials, the marketing destination is as important as the tag line. In some ways, it is more important, and the challenge is to not only make it relevant but also ensure that they will find it. This is pull marketing rather than push – and certainly will not work for every product. Yet for many brand marketers still wasting money on an interruption marketing strategy … there is a lesson here worth noting.