The “Don’ts” of Marketing to Millennials

November 30, 2017

“Millennial” seems to be the buzzword of the advertising world at the moment. Marketers everywhere are wondering how to get their message across to this emerging demographic group in a way that resonates. Media outlets like Adweek and Forbes have reported on optimal ways to reach this younger demographic, but don’t solidify any real evidence on the best practices for reaching the target.   Instead of reporting on the best ways to reach millennials, it may be more beneficial to point out messaging strategies that have not worked in targeting this demographic and why. Consider it a list of major “don’ts” when targeting a millennial market.  
  1. DON’T try too hard - GAP - Dress Normal

  With Millennials starting the “Normcore” movement – defined as a bland anti-style - GAP saw an opportunity to promote simple styles and basic garments to be worn by a younger demographic. They entirely missed the boat. With a “Dress Normal” tagline, this campaign isolated GAP from its consumer and created a laughable campaign that tried too hard to insert itself into “Normcore” style. Beautiful creative work was wasted on a campaign that didn’t resonate with its intended audience, and “normal” clothes from GAP sat on sales racks. This embrace of ordinary, plain clothing was lost by GAP and fell flat, causing sales to downturn for the quarter. Millennials have access to so many different trends, and it is important for brands to keep up on them in a way that seems natural and fits with their consumer. GAP inserted themselves into the movement and then left millennials wondering what the purpose of their campaign was.  
  1. DON’T tell them who they are

  Millennials are constantly told who they are supposed to be by advertisers and media without any context. Brands often come with a sly wink and a “we know older demographics don’t get you, but we do!” statement, when in fact they aren't understanding  what millennials deal with on a daily basis.  
  1. DON’T group all millennials in the same category - Millennial Groups

  When rebranding a company, many don’t realize that the broad category that is millennials are all in different places in life. A Google definition of “millennial” reveals that they are a generation of children born between 1977 and 2000. About 50% of this generation’s households have children, and this statistic alone creates a huge discrepancy in the type of person a brand is trying to reach. These facts, and that they are the most diverse age group in the United States, prove the diversity that should not be ignored by brands. Companies should be specific in the type of millennial they are trying to target, and creating a “consumer persona” is an excellent start to do this.  
  1. DON’T ignore their commitment to community and charity - Millennials and Charitable Companies

  A study found that almost 50% of millennials are more willing to make a purchase if their purchase supports a cause. If a brand isn’t making strides towards social improvement, many of this younger generation are less likely to buy.  
  1. DON’T use obvious slang in the copy - Starbucks Ember

  Ember, the Starbucks cup that lets customers adjust their drink temperature, is being described as “revolutionary.” For a product so rooted toward the millennial demographic, their first commercial falls flat. The commercial shows multiple Ember drinkers reacting to the change in temperature, and the first response features a hipster-looking guy exclaiming “Dope!” after his first sip. The result is a cringe-worthy moment in advertising, and disappointment for what could have been a memorable commercial. While slang can be cleverly used, it is important to keep in mind that consumers can tell when brands are trying too hard to know the lingo.   What’s most important is to understand that what millennials want is not very different than what every customer wants: a better customer experience or product and an authentic brand that stands for something.

Categories: Brand Development Market Development Uncategorized