Marketing To Millennials


By Danielle Jaffit, Strategist at NATIVE VML

Danielle Jaffit
Danielle Jaffit, Strategist at NATIVE VML

Over the past few months I’ve received countless briefs that begin with, “we’d like to target millennials”; only to discover most clients aren’t brave enough to take the leap of faith required to implement these ideas.

Most brands know by now that they should be speaking to millennials. It’s nothing new. However, most brands simply aren’t getting it right. In fact, in my experience many brands are simply terrified of what it takes to engage the unique millennial mindset.

Why the terror? A key challenge is the fact that the decision makers in the marketing functions of many brands are not millennials and it boils down to a lack of understanding. As the custodians of brands in this age, marketers have the ability to embed their product or service into the hearts, minds, lives and pockets of their consumers, yet they struggle to do so because it requires a fresh approach and a new viewpoint. Old marketing tactics don’t work with this new generation.

Patrick Spenner, CEB’s Marketing & Communications Practice Managing Director and contributor to Forbes Magazine, summed it up neatly when he said that millennials are misunderstood because they’re not approaching adulthood the same way that previous generations have. The impact of the recession coupled with an expanding world of choice and options have impacted the way they view life.

To figure out what works, it’s important to first know who the target market is. Millennials, like myself, are individuals aged between 18 and 34. We are the most socially connected and most ethnically and racially diverse generation. We have grown up alongside digital technology and as a result regard behaviour like texting and tweeting not as radical innovations but a part of daily life, as natural as breathing.

When it comes to brands, we want authenticity and great experiences. Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling to build relationships with us; we want to know where the products come from, why they are good for us and how they will benefit our world in the long term. Give us great experiences, allow us to customise, be consistent and give us a reason to trust you.

Be mobile first in order to cater for my generation’s need for instant gratification. We are impulse driven and demand instant gratification, responses and solutions, so include capacity for this in your campaigns.

What brands are getting it right? Think Intel, with their branded content and storytelling. Red Bull shares experiences and social currency through the content they’re creating. Chipotle demonstrates shared values with their Cultivate a Better World positioning. Locally, Nando’s, Lipton, Nike and Discovery are leading the way in cultivating relationships with millennials.

Brands can no longer hide behind clever slogans and beautiful logos – millennials want the whole story, and if you can be more than a brand to this generation, we will be your most loyal base, who will campaign for your products if you give us a reason to value you. Share our values, the things we care about and we will care about you.

Marketers, look within before you look without. Chances are at least part of your marketing team is made up of millennials. Listen to our millennial-centric ideas and try hard not to shut down ideas because you’re unable to understand them. Within the next five years, millennials will make up 50% of the global workforce. The brands who want to grow in the next five years should do everything in their power to connect with this audience of brand-loyal consumers. And it starts with being open minded and viewing work through a millennial lens.


Media Release Courtesy of ‘Cathy Findley Public Relations’ for NATIVE VML