Since the Great Recession, there have been many descriptions and articles pertaining to those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. From entitled to innovative, self-indulgent to philanthropic, it seems there are many, some even contradictory, adjectives for the millennial generation. The only thing we know about millennials for certain is that they are redefining the marketplace and the workplace, or at least they will soon.
The status quo and mainstream establishment are gradually shifting from their old ways. For instance, McDonald’s, the beacon of fast-food, particularly for youth years ago, is now experiencing a tremendous decline in sales and is slowly revising its menu. Coca-Cola is another iconic brand that is attempting to showcase its health-conscious side.
It’s no secret that millennials will soon be a dominant consumer as the population has already surpassed that of the Baby Boomer generation, another demographic that has been at the forefront of major societal changes, newsworthy events and immense social and economic issues.
Brands will have to understand exactly what millennials want. Indeed, it is hard to exactly peg, but these eight trends are a great start to finally begin adopting and understanding the enormous millennial consuming base.
#1 Corporate Responsibility
From what we saw a couple of years ago during the Occupy Wall Street ruckus, which was mostly comprised of youth, millennials aren’t necessarily excited about profits, shareholders and corporations. Instead of depicting a brand as this corporate behemoth, companies have to portray their brand as originating from the grassroots, fighting for the little man and putting people before profits.
Millennials are big on the environment, perhaps because they were shown "An Inconvenient Truth" in their science class throughout elementary or secondary school. If a brand highlights their awareness of their ecological footprints and attempts to be environmentally-friendly, then they can have a friend or customer, in a millennial.
Whether it’s Burger King or an office space, a brand must start looking after their customers and workforce’s health and well-being. When it comes to the food industry, brands have to begin incorporating organic options, embracing food trends and limiting various unhealthy ingredients (fructose, aspartame and mechanically-separated chicken). When it comes to the workplace, enterprises have to start creating standing workstations, exercise breaks and perhaps even flexible work options.
The world has gone mobile and is continuing to go mobile even further. In the next several years, two billion people in this world will own a smartphone. Don’t get left behind. If your brand hasn’t already, it will have to start implementing a mobile marketing strategy, a mobile-friendly website and a mobile-commerce plan. Remember, Google recently warned it’s going to penalize websites that aren’t friendly to mobile users.
#5 Fun Content
Let’s be honest: millennial consumers are catching onto brands that are churning out marketing content. It’s not that they necessarily mind content marketing, but it’s the content itself they’re shunning, and this could affect sales. A recent study alluded to the fact that millennials want fun, engaging and unique content rather than self-serving and salesy content.
Years ago, the only type of engagement a brand would have was a billboard or a bus shelter poster. Today, thanks to the Internet and social media, brand engagement is more prevalent than ever before. If your brand isn’t engaging, it isn’t selling. Today’s youth will soon be customers, and they will have become accustomed to the fact that businesses engaging with the general public is a common thing.
It’s simple: answer questions, respond to inquiries, share content and publish corporate updates.
Similar to No. 1, your brand must not appear to be for the elite, status quo and the so-called one percent. Instead, the brand should present itself as being for the everyday common man who works Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In today’s society of class warfare and abhorrence for the wealthy, a brand can’t risk being viewed as only for the affluent but rather inclusive.
#8 Experience vs. Consumption
No longer do consumers just want to own stuff, they want to build experiences and create long lasting memories from said product. Millennials want to show off their lives on Facebook and Instagram. If your brand can assist in this endeavor, then the loyalty from Generation Y will be great.
Despite the negative publicity that millennials get, brands can certainly tap into this confounding niche. Instead of dismissing and turning your back on them, tell millennials that you understand them and will work hard to provide whatever product or service they will need to live a fulfilling life.