Thursday I was invited to speak to the students of PRIME Iasi about a very interesting subject – how to catch millennials? And since I did not prepare a visual presentation, I thought it would be maybe useful for them (and you) to have a transcript of what I actually said. It was a very nice topic and we talked about it for almost 2 hours. But I promise, this post won’t be that long. I’m trying to make it as short as I can.
Catching millennials refers to them as being a part of an audience for a communications campaign. So before we go ahead and start writing headlines and creating PR plans, let’s spend a few minutes trying to understand the millennials. Actually, let’s try to create a portrait for this age span called specifically „Millennials”, Generation Y or Generation Me.
- They are born between 1981 and 1996. But, since we come from a former communist country, we should consider a bit of a delay. So I would say we’re talking about the interval 1985 – 2000. It’s fair to say that 1981 to 1985 are still part of the „xennial” cohort since they also had pretty much analog childhood in this part of the world.
- We have to divide this interval in 2 subgroups – 1985 – 1992 and 1993 – 2000. And they are very different in these two groups. 1985 to 1992 they are true millennials. The second subgroup is transition to Generation Z. A kind of xennials.
- Millennials are described with two characteristics: narcissism and entitlement. In other words, we are the best that ever lived and we are entitled to have everything NOW. So I would also ad eagerness to those two.
- Because they reached adulthood in a time when things were changing in a hurry and because they had very protective parents, many millennials decided to extend their teenage period and that resulted in a life stage called „emerging adulthood”. First time ever, young people decided not to get married immediately out of college, decided not to get a loan and many of them came back to live with their protective parents, in their nest.
- As a result to no. 4, a millennial could focus more on other things and he or she became civic minded. That translates into being rather involved in civic action than political action.
- Most of the millennials around the world are digital natives. In our case, we should be mentioning the second part of the cohort. Because the first half still had to get used to tech, even though that happened during teenage years. However, both subgroups speak TECH fluently so digital communication is natural.
- One thing that makes the millennials definitely different from the previous generations are the knowledge gaps. This is the first generation that actually refused to learn things that they considered useless. So hold your horses here and don’t assume that everybody understands basic latin, can name all the continents and the longest river in Europe or can recite the laws of thermodynamics.
- Politically correctness was born when millennials reached adulthood (remember them being civic minded) However when it comes to politics, they would rather join the „meh” or „idk” party. Being caught in the political purgatory says some things about them.
- Some say that millennials are detached from institutions and networked with friends. Now that’s not always a good thing. As when they are faced with a problem, they would rather ask their friends who have no expertise whatsoever regarding the problem they’re dealing with. Asking their teachers, professors, supervisors, bosses … no way! Why is that? Remember those overprotective parents?
- The perfect job is the one where they get constant feedback from their superiors. That gives us an idea about how much insecurity we’re talking about. And a consequence is lack of will to take responsibility. They don’t like to feel guilty and they’ll find a way to avoid the risks of taking the blame. It’s not my fault is almost a credo!
- Things also changed when it comes to priorities. As the generations before stepped into the line of fire right after school and worked their asses to pay their mortgages and other loans, when it comes to millennials, work is just necessary but not a priority. The work-life balance is the new thing. What happens after work is more important for once.
- Although they did not pay that much attention in school, they think that they are a special generation. In some literature they are called also „trophy kids”. Because they think they always deserve a trophy. Even though they come in last, it doesn’t matter. And if the trophy doesn’t arrive and criticism comes instead, then they become very irritated.
OK, that wasn’t such an easy portrait to do. But this is truly a complicated generation. And if you think this is complicated, wait until you see what comes next. Generation Z takes everything to a whole new level. But that’s another story! So, how can we use all this information about millennials when it comes to creating marketing communication strategies and campaigns?
First of all try not to put them all in the same jar. Because that’s wrong. At least try to identify which subgroup is part of your target audience. Second of all, try not to transform all of the above in a stereotype. Ok, you can easily spot some narcissistic tendencies, some feeling of entitlement or some knowledge gaps, but you shouldn’t use those things as a foundation for your strategy. And third, well this is where research comes into place. Invest time and money in focus groups and try to identify the degree of narcissism, of irritability, of entitlement or of detachment in your audience.
Use digital communication as a primary way of getting their attention!
Approach them with lateral communication, rather than a message that comes from up above!
Use influencers rather than television and endorsers. And not because TV is obsolete, but because millennials connect better with people they consider closer to them.
Turn your attention to micro-influencers because their connection to their followers is stronger.
Remember about their work-life balance priority and use it. And also remember that they like trophies. So make everything into an experience, a very accessible reward.
Use FOMO and create deadlines, once in a lifetime opportunities, throw action at them!
Be as transparent as you can and don’t make them feel like you’re not being frank.
If by any chance you make a mistake, don’t rush and try to hide it or justify it. Remember that they love to be involved in civic actions. Wait, analyse and react when you have all the answers. Let them use the stage you’ve just created for them. For once, they love being in the spotlight, don’t take that away from them!
And last but not least, if you’re involved in internal communication, your primary goal should be telling those first line managers to always give feedback. Forget about team-buildings, office games and other motivational crap!
Millennials are by all means a very different generation than their predecessors. And fur sure it will be the same with Generation Z and whatever follows after that. It is our job as marketers or as communication specialists to understand them and speak their language. There will be always a generation gap that’s pretty difficult to fill, but with the right amount of research and attention it can be done! Good luck!