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Marketing to Millennials

Being Interested in Your Customers can Help You to Reach This Generation

We are in the age of the maturing millennial. The generation that represents the
future to a greater extent than any other that came before them. Coming of age
having witnessed rising costs for a decreasing value in eventual payoff coupled
with tremendous tech advances, it’s no exaggeration to imply the one stereotype
we could assign to this generation would be that they question everything and

Their need to find meaning and value in their personal and professional lives
shouldn’t be ignored as they lead the world towards a ‘choosing not to buy at all’
mentality, valuing an economy of experience and sharing.

In an article for Forbes in June 20151, Blake Morgan states a decrease among
Generation Y in buying things through traditional channels and in a desire to own,
contrasting with a prospering events industry and increase in money and time
spent on experiences. We are valuing access to, over ownership of things. We don’t
have to think up many examples to see this theory take form with the likes of
Spotify for access to music over owning records, branded subscriptions for access
to films over owning DVDs, Uber and Zipcar for car and taxi sharing over owning
cars as a traditional status symbol, Rent The Runway for borrowing designer
clothes, AirBNB for sharing holiday homes and flats over hotels, etc. Spending
habits are changing with the balance of supply and demand because information
and things are available everywhere.

The article cites that more than 3 in 4 (78%) of millennials choose to spend money
on a better experience than on a desirable product, and that we would like to
increase our spend in this area over the coming year. We can interpret this in two
ways – that we literally want to be with other people and live new experiences
together, but also that we want to endure a better ‘experience’ with the
businesses and brands that we do choose to give our money to. The perceived
‘value’ of buying something has changed to something more holistic in meaning.
Products and services must allow us the ability to do or know something we deem
worthwhile, to connect with others or to say something about ourselves. By setting
these three motivations as the target, we can have the right impact on this new
world and ensure the value of the customer remains high.

As a generation who want to talk about themselves and compare to what other
millennials are doing, we are the most technologically efficient. We want to be
able to connect digitally but still value real interaction after the initial building of
relationships. For marketing this means we have to craft and structure this
engagement and experience, and use a variety of channels to get our message in
front of people.

Marketing Donut says that firms that spend more on marketing are on average
more profitable than those that don’t spend as much, and that the most successful
marketing plans involve working out key areas of focus2. They also share an
encouraging insight that firms that maintain their spending budget for marketing
through hard times end up coming up stronger as they have a ‘greater share of
voice when their industry is spending less as a whole’. This provides a good
argument for determining marketing budgets on how much a customer is worth
from the number of sales they make from you over the time they stay with you.
It’s about gaining and keeping customers and longer-term return on interest rather
than immediate sales as a result of marketing. It’s about investing in sustaining
your brand.

“Hiring an agency is great if you want to know you’re growing your online presence
and creating great content but don’t want too much involvement in the process, or
when you need help with a project, but not a full-time hire” 3

It’s often more cost effective to have access to a team of skilled specialists,
writers and designers who are already familiar with your field and target markets
and can be flexible with lower rates that they can pass on to you. Col Skinner at
Profoundry4 conducted a survey of UK startups in 2015 and found that 37% of
those handle their own marketing despite not having any experience, whilst only
8% outsource it to an agency. Yet 59% wanted brand awareness most for their
business as opposed to customer acquisition, with content marketing voted most
important as well as the skill they need most help with.

With millennials constantly searching and browsing online, even the results of
basic principles of a group of knowledgeable experts can increase a small business’
chances of being seen by the audience. The need for crystal clear, simple
communication is critical to enable people to make the connection between
themselves and a product or brand. Thinking differently about what you sell and
showing your customers how you allow them to be empowered rather than feeling
like spectators to their lives will help to pave the way to building a community
through your product and brand, and deep relationships with your most valuable

Small companies working with external marketing teams rather than trying to
manage it in-house benefit from being inclined to define their business and brand.
They have to explain their reasons and tell their story. As well as this, it helps
them to build management skills and relationships with their teams, people and
customers, and believe in the brand promises and personality they represent.
Building and designing a brand in this sense is important for both employees who
are motivated to work harder if they are unified with a common sense of purpose
and the values that drive the brand, and customers who have a loyalty incentive
when these principles are clear and aligned too. Marketing is one of the key
sectors for securing a company’s growth, and with an external team businesses can
be as involved in the process as they choose to be – experts don’t have a problem
with sharing different opinions and insights.

Marketing can help with tone of voice, style and value story. Millennials want to be
spoken to, and collaborated with to strive for a purpose that’s more meaningful
than maximising profits. They dismiss any sense of hierarchy and want brands to
acknowledge that they are on the same level as them. The extent to which they
trust and rely on technology means good design and usability knowledge is needed
– if the user doesn’t understand it, they will be quick to drop it.

Working together in a collaborative exchange means both parties have incentives
to do good work. Alone our voices have less impact.


  1. Why Millennials Value Experiences Over Owning:
  2. http://www.marketingdonut.co.uk/marketing/marketing-strategy/yourmarketing-
  3. Erin Bury, 88 Creative
  4. Digital Marketing for Startups: https://www.profoundry.co/startup-digital-marketing-survey-results
  5. http://www.marketingdonut.co.uk/marketing/marketing-strategy/the-spiritof-