Marketing September 22, 2015 Last updated September 19th, 2018 1,779 Reads share

Marketing to Millennials: 4 Common Mistakes to Avoid

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Every generation is different; they are exposed to diverse cultures, thoughts, policies and technologies making them so different. What is true today of your marketing principles may turn out to be a limitation when marketing to the next generation.

A lot of giant companies might be thanking their stars how their marketing campaigns were limited to direct marketing, branding, billboards, TV, radio, print, etc.  They didn’t have to find their way into the labyrinths of mobile advertising, social media sites like SnapChat or Vine, or even content marketing for that matter, to attain market leadership.

Newer companies have to do all this and more, and yet can’t find a definitive way to gain a barely visible presence. On the contrary, they have to identify various niches in the broader market and satisfy themselves being a leader in one particular niche.

However, not all marketers are satisfied with a small slice of the pie and are constantly in search of new segments. One such segment is the ever-growing – and yet, hard to understand –

This post is a wake-up call for marketers who collectively make some common mistakes when targeting millennials. So without further ado, let’s start understanding these traps and how to avoid them.

#1. Respect Diversity in Millennials

The most common mistake of marketers is to dump all millennials in one group of 25-34 year old, digitally-advanced, socially-inept Americans who care more about the digital world than outside reality. But can 70 million people really be same?

The truth is almost 43% of millennials are non-white and over 26% speak a language other than English at home. Not all of them are socially inept and not all of them are engrossed in their digital gadgets. They care about conversations made face-to-face as much as the next Gen Xer or Baby Boomer. Once you know how to diversify various segments within the millennials mega-segment, you would know how to market to them.

Let’s take an example of two millennials, Jeff and Jack.

  • Jeff is an extrovert, who loves outdoor life, is optimistic about everything and has shown more interest in real estate than the latest iPhone.
  • Jack on the other hand, lives life by the day, is non-committal about everything else other than his work, on which he spends 14 hours a day sometimes. By the virtue of being a workaholic, he has become an introvert to the extent of ignoring everything else. His social and dating life is practically zero.

So will your marketing strategy to both be the same? Do you think “life stages” marketing such as Career > Car > Marriage > Home > Children is appropriate to Jack as much as it is to Jeff?


Also there are other considerations. For instance, some millennials love to experience everything – they are globetrotters; others are dreamers who want to pursue a vague dream; still others are evangelists who want to change the world through their innovations and ideas. Keep all this in mind before finding and targeting millennial personas, and you should be fine.

Digital marketers can make use of social media intelligence tools such as TalkWalker to tap into conversations taking place on multiple social networking sites across the globe and get insights from real-time as well as historic data. Millennials also appreciate a consistent cross-channel experience. Marin’s Audience Marketing Suite allows you to deliver customized, optimized multi-channel campaigns targeted at a specific audience: read, millennials.

#2. Grow Brand Evangelists

Marketers need to forget old school methods of marketing when targeting millennials. They need to understand that traditional medium of advertising is nothing more than interruptive noise for millennials. They value peer reviews and expert opinions more than funny or tear-jerking TV ads, no matter how sensitive or good they are. This is where content marketing comes into the picture.

Every marketer has to find influencers and thought leaders within their niches and invite them to use and review their products and services. These people have proven to be especially skilled at connecting with millennials. You could invite such bloggers and social media influencers to try out and write about your products and services, and if they like them, eventually become advocates for your brand.

An easy way to manage your brand relationships with writers and influencers is to use collaboration tools that allow you to connect, brainstorm, identify tasks and set deadlines to improve your marketing reach. Wrike, the marketing project management suite, has particularly good features (dashboards, interactive timelines and iPhone apps) and resources that can help you do this.

#3. Solve Big-Picture Problems

Millennials buy more to solve a problem rather than to show off as opposed to their antecedent generations. They are very cautious about their money and will not buy anything that doesn’t offer value or meets their needs. In fact, they don’t want to buy stuff at all. Rather, they want to collaborate and co-create products with companies – with whom they share values and passions.

If you want to sell to millennials, try the problem-solution method in all your marketing efforts. And show them the value of the transaction – something much bigger than your product or brand.

#4. Make Long-Term Relationships

While marketers are quick to think that millennials are not brand loyal, the truth is 44% millennials are loyal to their favorite brands.  This might come as a shocker to those who haven’t been studying millennials closely but the truth has been established long back.

Millennials are basically wary by nature. They will find out everything about a brand or product through social media, online reviews, etc. until they exhaust all their sources. But once they are sure about something and it fulfils their needs, they don’t go about looking for alternative options. They see brand loyalty as long-term relationship. In fact, some influencers within the group think of brand loyalty as long-term partnership and go a step ahead by directly and openly influencing friends and peers.

In Conclusion

So the lesson here for marketers is to be open, transparent and welcoming to all these millennials and act as human beings rather than faceless companies if you want to win their loyalty.

All in all, millennials are hard to understand but if you scratch the surface and go deeper, you will find loyal brand advocates who can be immensely helpful once they start trusting you.

Images: “Targeting Millennials on a red bow and arrow aiming to reach a young Generation Y audience for your company, business or product/

Featured image: ITU Pictures on Flickr (used under CC license)


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Tracy Vides

Tracy Vides

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