It’s hard to keep up with the Millennial generation, the first generation to come of age in the new millennium. They have grown up with plastic cards and personal computers. This self-expressive group, comprised of people born between 1981 and 2000, is described as inquiring, demanding and sometimes irreverent. One-in-five have posted a video of themselves online and nearly four-in-ten have a tattoo, according to Pew Research.
Millennials like to form their own opinions; they don’t take the marketer’s word on products. They do their own research, getting ideas and feedback from their peers on social networks. They are ahead of the marketers.
“Millennials are hyper-connected on multiple channels and they have high expectations of what a company should know about them,” said Derek Martin, director of sales, Velti, a global provider of mobile marketing and mobile advertising. “They want to know the value of what they are getting and they believe they deserve to participate with a brand.”
Defining the Millennials: They Have the Power
Compared to Baby Boomers, the Millennials are actually 12 percent bigger as a group. They have the power to influence.
According to Sankar Krishnan, global client engagement head, banking & financial services, Sutherland Global Services, the millennial group represents a significant percentage of the population, and because of that, they hold economic strength. They tend to have short attention spans and are less patient than other groups; that’s why they are on Facebook.
Krishnan said, “Marketers have to get it right. Millennials want outcome-based messaging so we see a huge shift towards messaging through mobile. Whether they are dealing with their bank, telecom provider or a retailer, the group uses mobility to get in touch.”
If a brand fails to deliver its promises, these demanding consumers will let the world know. They tweet and post their stories on the internet using edgy messages. In the spring of 2008, Dave Carroll’s $3500 Taylor guitar got broken on a United Airlines flight. When he asked for compensation and the airline refused, Carroll wrote a song about the failed liability and put a video on the web, where the tune went viral. When United finally offered compensation, the artist posted a video response addressing the airline’s belated offer to repay him.
Companies are afraid of millennial power because of their ability to reach the masses instantly through social media, noted Martin. For example, Pinterest is a significant marketing channel and it is self-curated, fashioned by its users.
“Millennials are far more informed consumers; they research, then validate and authenticate claims that companies make.” said Iliya Rybchin, former senior marketing executive at Virgin Mobile. “Marketers have to be careful about the message, because Millennials find the truth and share it with friends.”
Millennials Like Alternatives and Noble Causes
Prepaid has captured the attention of Millennials, because it is an industry that offers an alternative to conventional financial services.
“Your industry captures their attention by not being mainstream,” said Chris Lambrecht CMC, trusted advisor for All Things Marketing. “You capture their attention with what’s in it for society and the common good. “Social media is all about capturing the attention of this generation. Few companies are doing it right. Think Coca-Cola polar bears campaign.”
The polar bears advertising campaign builds upon an existing partnership between World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Coca-Cola Company focused on freshwater conservation. In 2011, WWF and Coca-Cola launched Arctic Home to raise awareness of and funds for protecting the polar bear and the Arctic habitat.
Iconic products like Coke reach a spiritual sweet spot with Millennials who want to make the world a better place. What about prepaid wireless? Which carriers know how to resonate with the younger generation?
In the early 2000s, wireless carriers focused on features and price. Nobody focused on attitudes and lifestyle choices, recalled Rybchin. “Then Virgin Mobile recognized that the Millennials were underserved. The carrier was founded to go after that market, what they considered a demographic sweet spot.”
Virgin Mobile told us that their customers are not all Millennials but share many of their attributes. “Our customers are deal seeking always looking for a different way to do things, in the know, and always sharing information within their circle.” said Lorena Pino, manager, corporate communications and public relations, Virgin Mobile USA. “They are socially savvy, rely on social networks for decision making and access tons of online information, and they value exclusivity.”
According to Pino, Virgin Mobile consistently positions its wireless services as the savvy choice for customers seeking a different, better way of doing things. “Our plans are built for the way this kind of customer actually connects, with unlimited data and messaging included on all plans. Why sell them plans loaded with minutes when they rarely use their phone for talking? Why hold them to contracts when they can get the phones and services they want and save a ton of money with Virgin Mobile?” said Pino.
To amplify their messaging, Virgin Mobile cultivates awareness and interest primarily through relevant pop-culture tech content on virginmobilelive.com and other social sites and through publishing partnerships, including Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed, as well as branded Virgin experiences offline, such as the carrier’s annual music event, Virgin Mobile Freefest, or its sponsorship of Lady Gaga’s tour, which deepens brand engagement and develops a community of brand loyalists and evangelists.
Banking on and with the Millennials
Besides mobile phones, the Millennials are clearly attracted to cards. “They were acclimated to plastic at an early age,” said Mark Putman, senior vice president of Prepaid Solutions at First Data. “They have grown up getting gift cards from parents and grandparents, which has morphed into an inherent understanding of plastic over cash.”
This is the generation that has experienced the safety of plastic cards, how they are replaceable if lost, how they process transactions, for bill pay, and for person-to-person money transfer. “There are a lot more things coming soon,” said Putman. “Mobile finance is the next step, which will take off and accelerate even faster than plastic cards.” •
6 Ways to Reach the Millennials
Befriend Social Media: Think of it as another form of television. Build a dialogue with customers through social media, really a simple form of traditional public relations, except you disseminate messages through digital channels. What’s special about 21st century public relations is that social media gives brands an opportunity to interact with customers in real time.
Pay Attention to Social Media Sites: Millennials are sophisticated about searching for information and finding things on the internet. Instead of just using Google or Bing to search, they also use social media sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest as search engines. The Millennials go directly to social media channels to search for information about products or services. Brands must pay attention to social media sites and communicate through them in order to build trust with existing and future customers.
Communicate Ideas: Build credibility with a social audience by entertaining, discussing and teaching ideas. Ignite conversation and ask for honest feedback. For example, what do you think about our new phone, our new prepaid card? Social media is the perfect platform for a brand to communicate with their customer and provide information and feelings that make people share with others.
Be Responsive to Customer Communications: When consumers have questions and/or complaints, connect with them via social media. Here is your opportunity to display great service in front of a large audience. Address customer complaints head on by treating the customer with respect, being as helpful as possible. These opportunities can end up being the best testimonials.
Fun & Simple Engagement: Build and maintain trust by offering entertainment. It’s not always about your company and its services or value. Provide value in a fun and creative way through daily content, apps, videos, contests, sweepstakes, and social responsibility (noble causes).
Social Responsibility: Build trust with your customers by letting them know you care about the world and the people and animals in it. Socially responsible brands often gain momentum when fans and customers see they are not just about profits; they give back to their communities or the world around them. Social media channels are the perfect platform to let people know what you are doing to help others. Promotions that give back to others are the way to go.