Three Myths about Marketing to Millennials

For years marketers have been talking about how to reach the next great generation of consumers, decision-makers and influencers. Although there are few variations of the range in birth year, Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are loosely defined as individuals born between 1980 and 2000. With such wide-ranging opinions on the birth-range and research around their values, marketers must diligently avoid assumptions and myths to find the proper mix of modern direct marketing to get their messages in front of this group of buyers.

Myth #1: Millennials are all the same

In 2013, Time magazine declared that Millennials are characterized as lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents, and the media generalization has stuck in the minds of many Americans and marketers alike. But at the same time studies have shown this “me” generation to be more altruistic, socially conscious and receptive to new ideas. They are more likely to value diversity and are concerned about privacy. They also have proven to be more frugal, relying less on credit cards and saving more money. A smart marketer knows you can’t expect a 70-year-old retiree to respond the same to the same message as a single mother of two young children would. Marketers cannot assume all Millennials are the same target market. Like any other demography, there are going to be segments that have different social, economic and personal values that a brand can relate to and increase awareness and response.

Myth #2: Millennials are killing industries

What do starter homes, chain restaurants, napkins, macro beer and movie theaters all have in common? Look around and you will find articles and mentions that Millennials are killing these industries or products. The truth is all consumers are reacting to a change in the marketplace, and outside forces may play a larger role in the shift toward and away from products than a consumer’s age. Millennials grew up and continue to live in a world of omnipresent advertising; as a result they can be cynical of traditional advertising tactics and apprehensive about messages that lack honesty. They are savvy consumers who read reviews, value social and environmental responsibility and look for companies that align with their values. By understanding your product better and how your brand is regarded in the market, you can better align to the values of your target market.

Myth #3: Millennials are digital natives; direct mail is irrelevant

Millennials spend more time online than older adults, so abandoning online and social ads would not be recommended, but it is important to note that physical mail has been shown to be more reliable and captures more attention for these younger adults. Digital natives they may be, but Millennials respond favorably to the low-tech marketing of direct mail. In a recent study, the USPS found that 84% of Millennials take the time to look through their mail, and 87% like receiving direct mail. Compared to older adults, younger adults are more likely to scan, organize, take the time to read and share direct mail with others.

For marketers, there seems to be a great opportunity to engage a new generation of younger adults with direct mail. Whether it is the novelty, the ability to personalize or feeling a tangible marketing message, physical ads trigger the brain differently than digital messages. Compared to digital, physical messages create a stronger emotional response, are easier to process and recall and increase the overall amount of time spent with an ad.

Millennials present both a great challenge and great opportunity for marketers. But like any other generation, a modern direct marketing campaign with targeted and relevant messaging, served through multiple channels is the best strategy.

Trent Weber • November 28, 2018

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