The Age Tsunami: Four Considerations when Marketing to Millennials and the Next Generation

Originally Published in: International Advertising Bureau

October 17th, 2016

Millennials are the largest generation in history (bigger than Baby Boomers) and marketers spend the most trying to reach them with eMarketer finding that 34% of marketing budgets go towards targeting Millennials overall (US) along with 39% of mobile budgets also dedicated to reaching this age group.
Advertising to Millennials is a challenge. They are the first generation to grow up attached to smartphones, tablets and laptops, with access to social media and the Internet, and the way they find, consume and act on information–especially targeted advertising–is completely different from past generations. Not only are most forms of traditional advertising being ignored, so are online ads. A study found that while display side advertising may be looked at by 83% of Baby Boomers, only 31% of Millennials looked at the same ads. With a clear generational divide and an imminent tsunami of Millennials and Gen Z consumers who don’t generally engage with traditional advertising, what are the best ways to advertise to Millennials?

Creative Interaction

It goes without saying that creativity should always be front and centre when it comes to advertising. Snapchat’s ability to merge messaging with creativity and evolve quickly, bringing out new features regularly is part of the reason for the platform’s success–with 46% of the user base being 16-24 year olds.

For Black Friday in 2015, Apple Beats sponsored Snapchat Lens offering a personalised and creative way for people to engage with the brand. The Beats lens put special effects over photos, superimposing cartoonish headphones over people’s ears, floating bubbles out of their heads and streaming light out of their mouths and making it musical – it was set to the Drake song “Big Rings.”

When I was working at Microsoft in 2005, we ran similar product “theme packs” on MSN Messenger, reminding us how things tend to come full circle. Brands would theme backgrounds and emoticons–using creativity to enhance user experience through personalization. Coca Cola’s theme pack went viral worldwide and 70% of the user base in Brazil installed it. Users didn’t have to download the pack, they did it of their own free will, an incredibly important engagement metric. It shows the importance of giving something back.

We need to get back to a place where creativity is at the centre to break the cycle. Creatives must be brought into the planning process much earlier – early enough to produce videos by platform.

What’s In It For Me?

With every consumer, there is a cost-benefit weigh up; “If I give my time to this ad/content, what will I get in return?” Content needs to give something back to the consumer – whether that’s in the form of corporate responsibility, humour, or other incentives.

Nearly 40% of Millennials prefer to spend their money on a good cause, even if it means paying more for a product. DIFF Eyewear have built their brand on a foundation of giving back to communities in need through each purchase so customers feel like they are a part of something bigger.

Don’t force or stalk

Ad blocking is on the rise as ads are being forced on users who don’t want them. It’s not just about choice, it’s about being in control. Intrusive mobile formats and over retargeting are some of the bad practices that have led to 45% mobile ad blocking in the UK.

We as an industry should think very carefully about these intrusive practices and work to engage rather than force messages on consumers.

The “text” generation

As we’ve seen with the rise of Snapchat among younger millennials, short form video formats are more appealing and digestible in a cluttered digital world. New ad video formats that are five seconds long should be devised in order to fit around this content – pre-roll ads that are longer than the content itself only frustrates users. The message needs to be clear and engaging within the first few seconds.

Flexibility helps future-proof

Programmatic marketing offers a great opportunity to test and learn in digital, comparing what creative works and what doesn’t–something that has been difficult to do in traditional media. Small changes can make a big difference, such as changing the colour of an ad background to increase engagement.

Flexible marketers who are willing to change course when certain tactics or platforms are seeing significant engagement are the ones who will reap the best results in the digital landscape, putting the customer at the core of what drives the marketing strategy.

Written by:

Chris Dobson

CEO of The Exchange Lab


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