Marketing to millennials this Christmas (and beyond)

December 9, 2016

With the final push for Christmas now underway for brands, many marketers will be obsessed with trying to find a way to engage millennials – a generation that now wields some serious spending power.

In fact, by 2018, millennials are predicted to have the greatest spending power of any generation. Any lessons learned this Christmas, then, can be carried over into next year, with the aim of being at your most effective by the time 2018 comes round.

While millennials are a lucrative demographic for marketers to target, they’re also one of the trickiest to get on-side. For millennials don’t go in for traditional advertising; they want to feel connected and involved when it comes to their purchases, they don’t want to be sold to.

Hard selling doesn’t really work for any audience in this information-saturated age, but millennials are particularly averse to old-school marketing. According to Kissmetrics research, 89% of millennials trust recommendations from friends and family more than claims by the brand.

Brands are responding accordingly: 28% of marketers say they’ve reduced their traditional advertising budget to fund digital marketing activities, as per Gartner research.

So, it’s out with the offline, in with the online, if you consider millennials to be your primary target audience, right?

Well, it’s not quite as cut and dry as that. Outbound marketing still has a place in your strategy, even if it’s true that the balance with inbound marketing has shifted somewhat.

Let us explain what we mean:

Social media 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule for social media is a good example of how the balance between inbound and outbound marketing has shifted significantly in the past few years.

Where once it was seen as acceptable to lean heavily on promotional posts, that tactic today will prove largely ineffective – especially with millennials.

Recent research from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) showed how consumers are losing faith in those brands who only use social media to tell their followers why their products or services are so great.

The survey from earlier in the year revealed how 30% of consumers say they now have little or no trust in brand information they see on Facebook, up from 20% in 2014. That increase is matched by Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

It is findings like this which has seen firms adopt the 80/20 rule on social media: only 20% should be promotional content, while the other 80% consists of brand-free educational content.

When it comes to millennials, they know what they want and know how to find it online. They head to social media to be entertained or informed, not sold at – but might accept a bit of promotion as long as the brand offsets it with relevant and engaging posts.  The 80/20 rule is a smart way of ensuring you keep the balance between the two.

Taking the offline, online

Social media also offers brands a chance to take the offline, online. You can use the platform to reflect your offline presence and vice versa.

Behind-the-scenes content, for example, is a great way to make your business relatable to millennials by humanising your company and showing that you have fun.

The offline and online worlds don’t have to exist as two separate entities – millennials don’t view them as such, after all; they view your brand as a whole, taking into account both online and offline interactions.

So, the next time you curate an offline event or campaign, make sure that you promote and document it online, too. Similarly, look for ways to extend a content marketing campaign beyond the realms of the online.

Authenticity is key

For brands that want to successfully reach millennials, they simply need to speak their language. This has led brands to influencer marketing, which involves harnessing the power of individuals to get your brand in front of your target audience.

It’s arguably the hottest trend of 2016 and looks set to dominate marketing strategies in 2017. It aligns superbly with the notion that millennials trust their peers over brands every day of the week. As per a bazaar voice whitepaper, 84% of Millennials say user-generated content has at least some influence on what they buy, and 73% say it’s important to read others’ opinions before purchasing.

Influencer marketing is marketers’ way of curating what millennials are reading about their brand. That might not sound particularly authentic, but in the eyes of millennials, it is.

In order to get behind a brand, millennials need some serious convincing – that much is clear. However, by ensuring your marketing has authenticity and personalisation at its heart, across all channels, both online and offline, you stand a chance of getting noticed by those big-spending, but brand-fluid, young consumers.

Dan Vivian - Business Development & Marketing Director