Millennials are a confusing demographic for businesses to target successfully because it's difficult to pin down what this age group is into, up for and supposedly up against. Unpredictable, incredibly segmented and with fleeting interests, how can an entrepreneur reach a generation that doesn't stay still long or often?
Tina Wells CEO of Buzz Marketing Group who strategizes for top clients within the beauty, entertainment, fashion, financial, and lifestyle sectors to target the allusive Millennial demographic, has 10 predictions for the year 2012.
- Conscious Consumption. Millennials are still consuming. The Recession proved to be more of a reset button, allowing them to focus on what’s important. Brands like TOMs shoes and FEED are examples of how Millennials are getting great products yet supporting even better causes at the same time. This is a trend that’s here to stay.
- Profitable Purpose. This term is frequently used by Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise. For non-profits to survive and appeal to a new generation of donors, they will have to understand the power of profitable purpose. Millennials want to feel a personal connection to the brands they’re supporting. Simply writing a check won’t do; they need the experience.
- Cake Baking. No, I’m not literally talking about baking a cake; this is an analogy for the process of making products. Millennials are more interested in the process of, say, baking a cake, than in buying the cake. So what does this mean for business? A behind-the-scenes view of designing the new J. Crew collection might be the push needed to get Millennials interested in the product. Millennials like the process more than the product.
- Instanity. I introduced this trend in my marketing book, Chasing Youth Culture And Getting It Right. Instanity is simply the insane focus having everything now. I like to call Millennials the “Microwave Generation.” Just think of all the things we can do in less than a minute: snap and print a photo, find a book and download it to a device, cook a meal. This convenience has led us to expect everything right now. It’s not just Millennials driving this trend. We want our economy fixed right now. We want wars finished right now. In the world of a 24/7 news cycle, there is just no time for later.
- Hand-Me-Ups. Tweens and teens are swapping newer technology devices with their parents, who aren’t so obsessed with having the newest and latest. Maybe it’s an effect of the Recession, maybe not. Families are finding ways to be more resourceful post-Recession, and this includes parents and children swapping tech tools.
- Wharholism. I coined this term a few years ago, and this trend is going nowhere anytime soon. Millennials are not obsessed with fame; they just know it’s easily attainable. This wasn’t the case for any of the generations before them. This trend may eventually be bad news for celebrities. We already see the erosion of celebrity from A-list to everyone else. And because of 24/7 media spotlights, even A-listers are losing some sparkle with every drunken hookup showcased all over the world. The real issue lies in talent. Do you have to be talented to be a celebrity? The Kardashians would reckon "no." 2011 was the worst year at the box office in decades. Are Millennials quickly losing interest in A-listers? Would they just rather stay home and make their own movies? They certainly have all of the tools to do it. There is no substitute for a great experience, but it’s unclear where that experience will come from in the future.
- Communal Consumption. One word to describe this trend: Spotify. No longer is music ownership a necessity. Renting our favorite songs—or new ones we might be curious about—serves us just fine. In all of my research over the past 15 years, I’ve always found that Millennials are committed to music; they see it as the soundtrack to their lives. But do they want to buy music? That is the $100 million question. Well, at least now we know they don’t mind renting it and sharing their picks with their friends.
- Existential experience. The real winners in Millennial marketing will understand how important it is to this demographic to have “once in a lifetime experiences.” This extends from the simplest “coffee experience” to life changing service experiences in places like Africa. For a generation who gets so much flack in the media, they have truly figured out the meaning of life. They have watched their parents save every dime and invest in “big, safe companies” that have ultimately let them down. They are committed to living life to the fullest. Recording artists who may be making less money selling CDs are surely earning more via live shows. It’s no accident that popular artists like Cee Lo Green and Lady Gaga have over-the-top personas and even more imaginative stage shows.
- Technoholism. In my book, I discuss how we’re all becoming Technoholics, completely consumed with technology. This is not changing anytime soon. If you want to engage with Millennials, you must understand the role technology plays in their lives. When we get scared of it as marketers, we tend to disconnect with our consumers. Technology doesn’t kill magazines or newspapers or music. What hurts these media is when we decide to stop innovating. Content is king, and always will be. Create an engaging experience with content, no matter what the platform, and consumers will engage.
- Segmented Engagement. Sadly, there really is no longer such a thing as “undivided attention.” Our attention is divided in a million different places. We check text messages in movie theatres, tweet important speeches, shop and text photos of what we’re buying. The list could go on forever. What this really means is that marketers have a smaller window of time through which to reach consumers. Say it fast, say it right. But has this really changed? Nike said, “Just do it” in 1988. Short, sweet, and to the point is nothing new.
Tina Wells is the CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, strategizing for top clients within the beauty, entertainment, fashion, financial, and lifestyle sectors. She is the author of the tween series Mackenzie Blue (HarperCollins Childrens Books) and Chasing Youth Culture And Getting It Right (Wiley). She is also a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business's development and growth.