The Millennial paradox: why speaking to Millennials means getting personal

Millennials are ambitious but lazy, hyper connected but self-obsessed, extremely confident yet highly insecure, optimistic yet worried about the future. Where to start when you need to engage them?

Last week I was at Youth Marketing Strategy 2015 in London and this two-day event gave BarclaysLifeSkills2a massive amount of insight into how youth are the most amazing group of consumers to work with, and yet increasingly difficult to reach with a generic marketing campaign. By participating in YMS 2015 it was great to move out of the travel sphere for a change and discover the latest general consumer trends being led by the UK’s youth population. The UK is globally respected for its creative marketing industry, so it was great to hear from experts at the top of their game.

Actually, let’s forget the fuzzy concept of ‘youth’ (something many in the travel industry are just catching up with). In fact, the term ‘Millennials‘ isn’t always helpful because people between the ages of 15-24 are facing such different stages of personal, social and professional development that they have to be broken down into sub-segments if you really want your message to get across to (and be shared by) the different tribes within this demographic. According to research from Facebook presented at the event, UK youth revealed three main groups:

Optimists (age 13-15 years): Positive, open, tech-obsessed, family focussed and ready to share anything via social media.

Explorers (age 16-19): Forward-looking, globally curious, image conscious, focussed on their education (we are talking the crunch years for school qualifications, after all), but with a creeping sense of insecurity

Realists (age 20-24): Time poor, mobile centric, multi-screeners but world-weary and concerned about their job prospects

(Source: Facebook, 2014 – Coming of Age on Screens)

One of the consistent themes among all those who presented their various marketing campaigns and experiences with these groups is that you should forget making your campaign about the product you’re trying to sell, but focus on the person you want to sell it to, instead. This means knowing your audience in a really personal way.

The contrasts that we hear about Millennials in the news and from colleagues was labelled by YouthSight at the Summit as the ‘Millennial paradox’ and underlines why it’s important to really listen to young people, and not base your strategy on assumptions. Once you can appreciate the complex demands of being a young person today, you can start to create ideas and campaigns on the issues that matter most to Millennials.

For example, today’s youth in the UK are more studious and more concerned about their future than ever before. They find saving money difficult and are acutely aware that the jobs market isn’t what it used to be. Brands that are able to provide support, reassurance and bursts of humour are therefore proving to be highly popular. For support, take Barclay’s Bank’s LifeSkills project, to help young people work out their future plans. For humour, take Lego’s reaction to the debate over the blue/white/gold coloured dress that took Twitter by storm earlier this month.

Getting personal is now totally possible using the power of social media, which gives all marketeers a direct window into the lives of consumers, and an opportunity to communicate on a personal level like never before. Grabbing the attention of a highly distracted audience is another matter!  In my next post I’ll share some key takeaways from YMS on engaging this demographic via effective campaigns.

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