Our Insights

Cracking the Millennial Code: 5 Refreshing Rules of Engagement

July 21, 2015

A Millennial walks into a bar…

She rents a glass, asks a friend what to fill it with, reads reviews of the beverage online, shares a selfie with the concoction on Twitter and Instagram, and finally drinks it. #DownTheHatch

She recycles the plastic straw. And she’ll be back for another round.

As highly coveted Millennials continue to confound marketers, there are a few solid cubes of knowledge floating to the top of their consumer behavior cocktail. They don’t want to be tied down, they’re eager to seek input and share their feedback across social platforms, they’re socially responsible, and they’re fiercely passionate.

Millennials are adults 18-34 who represent 26 percent of the U.S. population and will account for one-third of all adults by 2020. They are the most educated generation in U.S. history and hold a future purchasing power that will exceed the Baby Boomer generation.

Here are five data points and insights that my Lewis Media Partners peers and I find to be true much more often than not as we help our clients target this enigmatic group:

  1. Embrace their digital dichotomy. There is no question that Millennials are consuming digital content at a ferocious pace. Of the 71 million Millennials in the United States, 60 million are active on the web. Millennials’ media consumption includes streaming videos and music, retrieving news, connecting with friends and family, and building their personal online identity. But don’t forget about traditional media; it should still be part of the mix, too
  2. Activate their altruism. Millennials like to buy one and get one free – for someone else in need. They’re socially responsible, eco-friendly and supportive of the local community; in fact, 75 percent said it’s important that the companies they support give back to society. Knowing how to authentically push these buttons without pandering or patronizing them is critical. Remember, Millennials are already inherently suspicious of your advertising. They’ll do their homework and make sure you’re doing what you say.
  3. Show just a little patience. The post-recession blues have Millennials shacking up with their folks well into their 20s and 30s, by choice or circumstances. This has delayed purchases ranging from homes to diamond rings and baby food. And once they’re ready, they’ll still research and research and research. A third will read blogs before making a purchase. Two thirds will talk to friends. Then they’ll hem and haw some more. But once they pull the trigger, they’re loyal, sometimes for life. Sixty percent say they’ll remain loyal to brand they currently support. After all, that research wasn’t for nothing. So start engaging with Millennials now, even if they aren’t your core consumer yet.
  4.  Practice social (media) etiquette. You know that you need to be present and engaging on social media. That’s because 56 percent of Millennials are logging into accounts at least monthly, and a whopping 90 percent alone are on Facebook. Engaging is good; 66 percent of Millennials follow brands on social media. Make sure your messaging and goals align with how Millennials are using each platform. For example, Millennials are more likely to use Pinterest for shopping purposes over Twitter and Facebook. Finally, pay attention to what others are saying about you. That’s because 89 percent of the group trust their friends and family more than you, the brand.
  5. Take your show on the road. Millennials are mobile, in both a micro and macro sense. Yes, they habitually use mobile devices, checking their smart phones on average 43 times a day. And while they’re brand loyal, as I mentioned earlier, they’re also consumer vagabonds who want to roam free and untethered. They want unbundled products, they prefer renting to buying, and they’d like to buy a car but lease a house. Their transient behavior may be frustrating, but once you give up on them, they’re gone for good.

Remember, Millennials are individuals, exhibiting their own unique behaviors and choices. The group you’re targeting could buck all these trends and data points. But I don’t think that will happen. I trust these observations and insights; not just because this is what I do for a living, but because I am a Millennial, too.

Now about that drink…

Jessica Wilburn