User Behavior: The Trick for Marketing to Millennials

Advertising Campaign Planning

The old methods just don’t work. In the past, customers were grouped by age. Then, generalizations about their values and habits were extracted for the whole group.

Marketers have been trying to target these young adults for several years. One thing is clear. We can’t generalize for this age group.

Instead, we must track the individual behavior of this game-changing generation — customer by customer.

Marketing to Millennials

Young adults wield great influence and buying power. First, they have matured as the older millennials are now in their early thirties. They have reached most adult milestones, such as starting a family or purchasing a home.

(They just did it a little later than previous generations.)

Second, they actually make the media. Young adults raise the loudest voices online. Social media influencers exert more awareness and authority than some traditional celebrities.

These two factors make the millennial target market both valuable and difficult to engage.

Keep Them Engaged

An elusive audience, young adults customize their media habits. In general, people don’t share technology and devices anymore. So, their habits are highly personalized.

(Think individuals not, “households.”)

This breaks them into small subgroups or niches. Finding the ones who are most likely to engage with your brand can take significant time. Then, keeping them engaged requires a constant stream of authentic, personalized content. So, you need to both find your target audience and keep them engaged. 

Finding your target starts by understanding how young people interact with media and advertisements. While they have near cult-like affiliations with their favorite brands, their program engagement and retention of ad messages remains very low.

In their Millennials on Millennials report, Nielson interviewed millennials to understand how they engage with media and advertisements. 

According to the report, “Less than 2% of 18-34 year olds changed the channel during commercials, compared with 5.5% of 35-54 year olds and more than 8% of viewers 55 and older. Given their engagement with other devices, however, young people had the lowest program engagement and lowest ad memorability scores during the studied shows.”

This data reveals the biggest problem with using traditional mediums. They promptly tune out messages that only focus on selling. 

Instead, millennials prefer advertisements that follow a narrative.

Additionally, the Nielsen study reveals they are OK with ads if the content is free. They understand that ads pay for that free content.

However, this trend acknowledges a significant change in viewing patterns that will impact your media mix.

Acknowledge Viewing Patterns

Millennials do watch television.

They just view it differently than previous generations. Essentially, they stream on one device. Then, they fill commercial breaks by scrolling through the internet on another device. According to Pew Research Center, about 6 in 10 young adults use online streaming to watch their shows. 

Also, they have developed a distinct set of media habits. According to Adweek, there are three different groups of millennial viewers, divided by their habits. 

First, the “On their Own” group lives independently from their parents. They are the most likely to have a multimedia device and high-speed internet. Also, approximately 78% subscribe to SVOD services such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. 

Second, the “Starting a Family” group were the most likely to own DVRs, DVD players, and tablets. They tend to watch the most live TV. They also spend the most time at home. 

Third, the “Dependent Adult” group has the least influence over their screen time. Their habits tend to mirror the preferences of older adults because they still live with their parents. 

Acknowledging these habits can help you better target the subgroup that matches your ideal customer. 

Employ Social Media to Break through Clutter

Since these young adults scroll through social media while they watch television, marketers must employ these platforms to break through the clutter. Young adults prefer brands that engage them using non-intrusive methods, according to the Center for Generational Kinetics.

This requires several key strategies.

Tell a Story

Millennials prefer to follow a narrative over time. They won’t engage with an offer unless they already possess an affinity for a brand. Your organization must craft a story that engages millennials throughout a series of posts.

Consider this as you plan your social media calendar. 

Personalize Ads through Targeting

Use technology to target and retarget your ideal customer. Most young adults build robust social profiles. You can use that information to reach those whose interests align with your brand. Additionally, you can track and retarget people who visit your website. This will expose them to personalized information related to their online activity. 

Take one step beyond retargeting a specific product (creepy). Instead, show sales on the category they were shopping or a free shipping ad. It serves an a reminder without literally following them with big data.

Match your Media to the Platform

Several years ago, brands would pump out the same post in the same format to all platforms. At the time, people thought this would help reach more people with the same message.

Instead, it bored users.

If someone follows a brand using several different websites, they want a different twist on the message each time they see it.

Also, each platform presents different opportunities to promote different types of media.

For example, videos perform better on YouTube and Facebook than on Twitter. By contrast, Twitter still makes the best use of hashtags compared to any other platform. Understanding this can help you match your media to each platform.

Choose Quality Over Quantity

With the goal of engaging many people, it can be tempting to produce a lot of content. With limited time and resources, this can often become a string of simple, boring posts that do little to generate a conversation.

As much as possible, choose quality over quantity. Your audience will appreciate a few thoughtful posts more than a flood of forgettable messages.

Generate Rich Media Content that Performs over Time

To differentiate your brand, create content that uses rich media such as video, audio, or other interactive elements. Moving past simple display advertising, this format increases engagement with young audiences. In fact, the top social networks support and encourage rich content. Millennials will remember those engagements. Below are several examples of strategic rich media. 

Pizza Hut Cinemagraph

The cinemagraph has grown more popular in recent years, culminating in this clever Cinemagraph TV ad. Created for Pizza Hut, this ad disrupted viewers by combining technology with an engaging experience.

Mike’s Harder Lemonade Game

When visiting the website, users can play a carnival-style game. Audiences remembered the encounter that matches the zany, fun-loving feel of the beverage’s brand.

Kelly Blue Book New Car Smart

Encouraging users to select features using a slider, this ad feels helpful and informative. As visitors engaged with the interactive tools, they could self-select the perfect vehicle.

Virgin Mobile Web Series

Building a story over several episodes, these Virgin Mobile ads follow a young couple as they travel. Instead of selling airfare prices, the message focuses on the experience.

Marketing to Millennials

Reaching young audiences can be challenging. It’s near impossible when you only use traditional methods. However, marketing to millennials works with a few strategic steps. 

In summary:

  • Find your millennials and keep them engaged. If you don’t build up your audience, you can’t target them.
  • Recognize these viewing patterns with your media mix. Essentially, they stream TV on one device at the same time that they browse social posts with another device.
  • Break through the clutter by strategically personalizing messages. This requires strong, original content and smart offers.
  • Create more traffic by using rich media as part of your content plan. Millennials will remember interactivity over repeated messages.

If you shift your strategy to include these tips, you will build a niche within the millennial market.

Published by Danielle

I'm a writer and artist in Lynchburg, Virginia.

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