Sunday, February 28, 2016

Appealing to Millennials

I'm a Millennial*. My generation is the largest generation after the Baby Boomers, and we're projected to overtake our parents in numbers in 2015, according to Pew Research Center. Everyone from advertisers to legislators is talking about us--how to get us to spend more, how to keep us from being crushed by student debt, how to measure our buying habits, you name it.
*Millennial, as of 2015, refers to anyone between the ages of 18 to 34, or anyone born between 1981 and 1997. The world has changed incredibly fast in those 17 years.
Unfortunately, we're such a large and diverse generation that it's hard to pigeonhole us. On that note, some of this blog post comes from my personal experience and certainly doesn't apply to all Millennials everywhere. That being said, here are some things I've noticed we value:


Our resistance to traditional cable advertising shows. We watch TV on video-on-demand subscription services like Hulu and Netflix, often in long sprees months or even years after episodes' original air dates. That's because whether we're in college or working professionals, we tend to believe cable isn't worth the cost and inconvenience of shows you have to catch while they're on.

Just look at the Gilmore Girls revival achieved by passionate Netflix viewers.

We prefer seamless digital experiences and rely on customer reviews when making big purchases. I once spent 30 minutes deciding between similar-priced portable speakers at BestBuy using my smart phone's mobile browser, jumping to Amazon to make sure I wasn't overpaying. We also hate ads that don't apply to us about as much as the next adult. I'm a college student, why would I need to refinance my mortgage? I don't make enough to start thinking about retirement, thank you.


We may be cautious when making purchases, but we're eager to spend money on experiences. Why do you think we like craft beer over cheap brands, or music festivals over the latest clothes? We try (the operative word) to heal the world rather than contributing new waste to it, so we opt for brands who we think are open and honest with their business practices. A classmate and good friend of mine recently interned at The Honest Company (co-founded by actress Jessica Alba) and my friend now believes in their ethical production values enough to buy products from them--even though she's not a new mom or anywhere close to the demographic targeted by the company.
The Honest Company's values, as stated on its website? "We both wanted an ideal: not only effective, but unquestionably safe, eco-friendly, beautiful, convenient, and affordable--everyone should have it. We believed every baby deserved the best we can create for them. We are dreamers."
Well-designed advertisements promoting that ethical and honest feeling can't hurt either. Have you heard of athletic/leaisure (athleisure) retailer lululemon? Some stores offer free yoga to get customers into their store. Customers--often Millennials--end up walking out with a $60 yoga mat and feel awesome about it. We like contributing to small, local businesses with an admirable vision when we can. But no Millennial I know can resist the organized convenience of Target, so there's that.

Look at that Pinterest-esque typography, that healthy lifestyle vibe, and the smooth, simple copy. Yep, they're experts.

Healthier Food & Digital Interaction

Oh yeah, and we're willing to pay a little more for slightly healthier food options. We still want our food fast, but rather than chow down at McDonald's we'll stop buy a convenience store or a Panera for fresher, better-tasting and customizable food. By the way, Panera's fairly new online kiosk ordering system, Panera 2.0 (where you can order in the store without ever having to talk to a person) is a Millennial dream. Say what you want about techno-dystopian omens, Business Insider. We're the digital generation, and many of us are introverts who prefer to decide between food options without the social pressure of a cashier waiting patiently for our answer.

Ah, minimal human interaction. Perfect.
Millennials aren't as mysterious a demographic as we might seem. Op-eds abound, but so does concrete research on our consumer habits. (Here's a great compilation of "3 Products Millennials Just Aren't Buying," with great explanations for each product/service.) Sometimes, though, you just need to ask a Millennial.

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