A Crash Course in Millennials

December 18, 2013

Millennials. Are you sick of hearing that word already? If you read the news, probably. Love it or hate it, it’s not a fad – it’s a cohort that’s a huge portion of our current and future population, and especially our consumer base. And that’s not opinion. That’s scientific fact.

I happen to be in the “love it” faction. I’m admittedly a millennial, so marketing to myself is a very intuitive (and fun) activity. Granted, millennials are a diverse crew, but to our Ketchum millennial employees – how to reach ‘em just makes sense given the world we grew up in and current reality. And, even though it may feel intuitive on our end – I 100% endorse that we are a tough crew. If you reach us, and reach us right – we’ll love you and sing your praises. But for most brands, the odds are against you. It’s a competitive world for our attention.

A fun shot from our Amsterdam office where they (Millenials) celebrated Hipster Friday.

A fun shot from our Amsterdam office where they (millennials) celebrated Hipster Friday.

Earlier this winter, I was able to attend a new B2B & B2C conference called Keen Digital Summit. Over 400 attendees learn from top digital entrepreneurs, leaders, founders and innovators in Nashville, TN. In its first year, the conference attracted social influencers, journalists, editors, developers, start-ups, small businesses and Fortune 500 brands. The focus may have been on travel, technology, food and spirits, and family, but cross-category topics like millennial marketing and Buzzfeed stole the show. I was there speaking for Ketchum on a marketing to millennial panel. I got asked a few questions there that we get asked at Ketchum from many of our clients. The crowd told me it was quite the crash course in millennials, so here’s some highlights, bulleted out for easy reading (after all, millennials generally have a fairly short attention span for text):

You like to “figure out Millennials” and discover what makes them tick. What are some need-to-know basics about Gen Y?

  • Millennials are an over-analyzed generation—often discussed as a different species, rather than a large part of the population you are inevitably already interacting with on a daily basis.
  • Constant contradicting reports on generational sentiment are (understandably) causing brands to spin their wheels about engagement approach.
  • Take a more holistic, intuitive perspective and have a strong “BS” filter.
  • Core traits everyone agrees on: Millennials are more culturally and demographically diverse than any previous generations yet also more connected.

What’s something surprising about millennials?

  • How pragmatic Millennials actually are.
  • More open-minded than many give them credit for. Sure, they’re a tough crowd—there’s a lot of competition for their attention given the overwhelming speed and quantity of information and culture at their fingertips, but that just elevates the necessity of quality engagement on behalf of brands. Ketchum’s motto is “break through” and we recognize that Millennials are key in pushing the industry in that direction.

Why is it important for marketers to look beyond print and target channels that Millennials pay attention to?

  • Fish where the fish are swimming. It’s not rocket science.
  • Some of these channels—even Facebook or Instagram—can feel risky, depending on the culture of the client, but there are ways to “swim” that appropriately mitigate risk while still being genuine.
  • “Speak Millennial” using tools like the Ketchum Millennial Network and Mindfire to crowdsource insights, feedback, and creative ideas

Why does everyone care so much about Millennials?

  • Coming of age as the digital revolution went en masse gave this cohort a louder, quicker microphone at an age when the spotlight and pressure is already strong.
  • Every generation tends to get more scrutiny when they fall into the 18-34 range.
  • They’re a tough crowd—there’s a lot of competition for their attention given the overwhelming speed and quantity of information and culture at their fingertips.
  • Elevates the necessity of quality engagement on behalf of brands (forces us to break through!!)

At Ketchum, we’re constantly connecting with millennials on behalf of clients across all sectors. It’s hard work, but it’s paying off. You could say we’re addicted. Really, I think we just like a good, honest challenge.

Sarah is a VP of Insights & Strategic Planning, working closely with team leaders to catalyze the planning/creative process and develop key research-based and target-relevant insights that help lead to clear strategic vision. In essence, people fascinate her and she figures out what makes them tick so brands can intersect with consumers in a meaningful, mutually profitable way. Recently named to the 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30 List in Marketing & Advertising, her focus on millennials has become a core area of Ketchum expertise. A committed cultural enthusiast, it’s hard to find something that doesn’t interest her. You can follow Sarah’s random musings on Twitter @sarahjane047, PSFK, and her blog, So Five Minutes Ago.