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Millennials outnumber Boomers, behavior patterns emerging

As Millennials outnumber Boomers and many reach their peak spending capacity, brands are struggling to reach the impatient generation and many make decisions based on misunderstandings of the Millennial generation.

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Millennials now outnumber Boomers

In a new study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)1, Millennials, aged 16-34 and Non-Millennials were surveyed extensively, showing “negative or dismissive attitudes toward Millennials” by Non-Millennial (Baby Boomer) corporate decision makers.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic Social Affairs, the number of Millennials (79 million) already outnumber Baby Boomers (76 million) in America by 3.94 percent. This gap will widen in coming years as Boomers’ numbers decline, making the bias against Millennials risky for brands, as many enter their prime spending years.

Millennials and technology

Attitudes toward Millennials are very different between Millennials and Non-Millennials. Millennials have a positive perception of their generation, describing themselves as “tech-savvy, young, cool, hip, and innovative,” as Non-Millennials perceive the generation as “lazy, young, spoiled, entitled, and tech-savvy.”

Both agree that Millennials are young and tech-savvy, and the study indicates that while both spend equal amounts of time online, Millennials are consummate multi-taskers and much more likely to produce user-generated content.

  • Own smartphones: 59 percent of Millennials, 33 percent of Non-Millennials
  • Own desktop computers: 63 percent of Millennials, 80 percent of Non-Millennials
  • Rate brands online: 60 percent of Millennials, 46 percent of Non-Millennials
  • Upload pictures, videos, and blog: 60 percent of Millennials, 29 percent of Non-Millennials
  • Watch 20+ hours of tv per week: 26 percent of Millennials, 49 percent of Non-Millennials
  • Watch tv online: 42 percent of Millennials, 18 percent of Non-Millennials

The above data shows a major generational difference in that Millennials do much more online than Non-Millennials, and are more likely to do traditional activities from some form of a computer be it a smartphone or a tablet, like watching tv or making phone calls. Millennials are proven to be multi-taskers, typically engaging in various forms of social media, email, and web surfing simultaneously across various browser tabs and devices, and while many Non-Millennials engage in this behavior, brands must take note that while they have a Millennial’s attention, they may not have their complete attention, so messaging must be absorbed quickly before their eyes dart somewhere else.

Millennials’ behavior is impatient, yet optimistic

BCG asserts that Millennials exhibit four common themes in their evaluations of themselves as a generation, which is supported by their behaviors:

  1. “I want it fast, and I want it now.”
  2. “I trust my friends more than ‘corporate mouthpieces.'”
  3. “I’m a social creature – both online and offline.”
  4. “I can make the world a better place.”

Brands currently not engaging Millennials should note that the generation expects a different customer service model, and it may surprise some to know that the generation typically prefers efficient, expedient service over receiving a friendly response. Many Non-Millennials mistake the instant gratification need of Millennials as being self-entitled, but it is typically tied more to speed and BCG notes that Millennials are always in a hurry – they expect fast service just like they expect fast downloads and get annoyed and willing to purchase better devices when they slow down.

The challenge here for brands is how to get Millennials to spend time with your brand, when they barely sit still for long enough to read an entire news story, rather skim and get the highlights. As we previously asserted, brands will need to capture attention immediately and quit making consumers analyze data or messaging themselves – the era of a wall of 10 point font on a white paper won’t reach Millennials, but a large image depicting an economic indicator will perform much better, for example.

The crowd-sourcing generation

The report notes that Millennials trust their friends over corporate mouthpieces, but eMarketer data goes a step further and indicates that the generation actually values friends and family’s opinions as equally as they do strangers online evaluating products and brands. This supports BCG’s assertions that Millennials are the crowd-sourcing generation, and they constantly consult Google to verify what they’re told offline.

Half of all Millennials use their mobile device to check out reviews or research while they are shopping, yet only 21 percent of Non-Millennials do so. Brands will need to step up their mobile game in short order as the zoom-in/zoom-out game will become tiresome for Millennials who will move on to better resources (that you don’t control). Over half (53 percent) of Millennials will explore brands via social media, but only 37 percent of Non-Millennials will, further supporting the idea that Millennials highly value crowd-sourcing.

Millennials and social media

Millennials are validated by “likes” on Facebook, and they form tribes online, even with strangers. The BCG study reports the following:

  1. Use social media: 79 percent of Millennials, 59 percent of Non-Millennials
  2. Have over 200 friends on Facebook: 46 percent of Millennials, 19 percent of Non-Millennials
  3. Favor brands with Facebook pages, mobile sites: 33 percent of Millennials, 17 percent of Non-Millennials
  4. Lives feel richer when using social media: 47 percent of Millennials, 28 percent of Non-Millennials

What stood out to us is that the report indicates Millennials favor brands with “Facebook pages and mobile sites,” but those are two very, very different outlets, so we do not consider that quite a reliable metric, but the study’s assertion that mobile is critical in coming years remains.

Lastly, the study found Millennials to be more likely to encourage others to support their cause, participate in fundraising events, purchase items associated with a cause, and volunteer their time, but the study fails to report how much each generation actually donates in dollars, which we suspect would be dominated by Non-Millennials.

The reason generosity matters, however, is that Millennials who have been trained since they could walk that environmentalism and social justice issues are important, expect companies to publicly engage in corporate social responsibility programs and to support causes relevant to the companies, be it their employers, or brands they seek to purchase. It’s not just a stunt, and Millennials take charity quite seriously and expect brands they identify with to do the same.

The takeaway

The Millennial generation is quite misunderstood, and while there is a need for instant gratification, and yes, some self-righteousness, the generation is caring, smart, and fast. Brands with leaders that exhibit a bias against Millennials may be skewered by the growing number of purchasers as Millennials’ purchasing power quickly outgrows Boomers’.

The study surveyed 4,000 Millennials and 1,000 Non-Millennials, including “pivotal years” before and after each generation to get a true picture of behavior, but we find it interesting that the disparity between the volume of each generation surveyed is quite large, so we expect future studies to reflect similar results, but perhaps a little more favorable toward Non-Millennials. The point remains, however, that brands better adjust quickly, because this generation has money and they don’t blindly throw it away – they research, they are practical, they are mobile, they are in a hurry, they care about your corporate culture, and they want to tell their friends about their experience with your brand.

Related reading:

  1. Millennials are more difficult to reach, but respond well to creative ads
  2. Technology has made Millennials impatient yet more complex thinkers
  3. How Millennials are conditioned to be entrepreneurs
  4. Why Millennials rely on friends’ and online strangers’ advice equally
  5. Millennials learning from their Boomer parents’ mistakes
  6. Portrait of the new Millennial businesswoman
  7. The ultimate guide to reaching Millennials

1 BCG Millennial study

Business Marketing

Video is necessary for your marketing strategy

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As technology and social media move forward, so do marketing opportunities. Now is the time for video content social media marketing!

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video content

As an entrepreneur, you’ve surely heard the phrase “pivot to video” countless times over the last few years. It’s the path a lot of media companies are on, but even brands that aren’t directly talking about this pivot have increased their video production. This shift stems in part from studies showing users spend more time on pages featuring video content. Social media has also played a significant role, and recently, new social platforms have made the pivot to video even more important.

Snapchat and TikTok are leading the social video sector as emerging social media platforms, but the audiences for these platforms skew especially young. The content on these platforms also tends toward the meme-worthy and entertaining, raising the question: are these platforms a good use of your time and resources? The answer depends on your industry, but whatever your field, you can certainly learn from the pros dominating these new platforms.

The promotional angle

One of the primary ways that businesses use video content across platforms is by creating promotional content, which range widely in style, cost, and content, but there are a few strategies that can really help a promotional video succeed.

First, a great promotional video hooks the viewer within the first few seconds. Social media has shrunk everyone’s attention span, so even if your video is on a longer form platform, the beginning has to be powerful. Having a strong start also means that your video will be more flexible, allowing it to gain traction across different platforms.

Audience matters

What you’re promoting – what your business does and who it serves – plays a critical role in what kinds of video content you make and what platforms you use. TikTok is a lot of fun, and it’s playing a growing role in business, but if your entire audience is age 30 and up, there’s not much point in trying to master the form and build a viewership there. You need a sufficient youth-heavy market to make TikTok a worthwhile investment, but Snapchat, which also serves a youth-heavy market, might be a different story.

Even if you don’t intend to make heavy use of Snapchat, the platform recently made a big splash in the video sector by opening up its story tools to other platforms. That means businesses will be able to use Snapchat’s tools on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where they may already have an audience. It will also make crossover content easier, allowing you to maintain consistent branding across all platforms. You may never download Snapchat proper, but you may soon be using their tools.

It’s all about strategy

However you choose to approach video content, the fact is that today video is a necessary part of your content marketing strategy. In part this is because, while blogs aren’t going anywhere, and short-form social media is definitely ascendant, both make use of video, but that’s not the only reason. Video is so powerful because it’s deeply personal. It makes your audience feel that much more closely connected with you and your brand, and that alone is enough to change buying patterns.

Another key advantage of video is that, consumers genuinely enjoy well-made videos. Unlike blogs, which most users will typically only seek out if they need information, there are brands out there who are known for their video content. They’ve found a way to hook viewers and make them feel like they have two products: entertainment and whatever it is they actually sell. You, too, can do this with enough creativity and today’s social media tools.

It’s critical that you don’t let your brand fall behind on video right now, because if you even stop for breath, you will be left behind. As TikTok and Snapchat have made clear, video doesn’t stop for anyone. At this point, video isn’t the future of social media or ecommerce – it’s the present.

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Business Marketing

Marketing amidst uncertainty: 3 considerations

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As the end of the COVID tunnel begins to brighten, marketing strategies may shift yet again – here are three thoughts to ponder going into the future.

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Open business sign being held by business owner for marketing purposes.

The past year has been challenging for businesses, as operations of all sizes and types and around the country have had to modify their marketing practices in order to address the sales barriers created by the pandemic. That being said, things are beginning to look up again and cities are reopening to business as usual.

As a result, companies are looking ahead to Q3 with the awareness they need to pivot their marketing practices yet again. The only question is, how?

Pandemic Pivot 1.0: Q3 2020

When the pandemic disrupted global markets a year ago, companies looked for new ways to reach their clients where they were: At home, even in the case of B2B sales. This was the first major pivot, back when store shelves were empty care of panic shopping, and everyone still thought they would only be home for a few weeks.

How did this transition work? By building out more extensive websites, taking phone orders, and crafting targeted advertising, most companies actually survived the crisis. Some even came out ahead. With this second pivot, however, these companies will have to use what they knew before the pandemic, while making savvy predictions about how a year-long crisis may have changed customer behavior.

Think Brick And Mortar

As much as online businesses played a key role in the pandemic sales landscape, as the months wore on, people became increasingly loyal to local, brick and mortar businesses. As people return to their neighborhood for longer in-person adventures, brands should work on marketing strategies to further increase foot traffic. That may mean continuing to promote in-store safety measures, building a welcoming online presence, and developing community partnerships to benefit from other stores’ customer engagement efforts.

Reach Customers With PPC

Obviously brick and mortar marketing campaigns won’t go far for all-online businesses, but with people staying at home less, online shops may have a harder time driving sales. Luckily, they have other tools at their disposal. That includes PPC marketing, one of the most effective, trackable advertising strategies.

While almost every business already uses some degree of PPC marketing because of its overall value, but one reason it’s such a valuable tool for businesses trying to navigate the changing marketplace is how easy it is to modify. In fact, best practice is to adjust your PPC campaign weekly based on various indicators, which is what made it a powerful tool during the pandemic as well. Now, instead of using a COVID dashboard to track the impact of regulations on ad-driven sales, however, companies can use PPC marketing to see how their advertising efforts are holding up to customers’ rapidly changing shopping habits.

It’s All About The Platforms

When planning an ad campaign, what you say is often not as important as where you say it – a modern twist on “the medium is the message.” Right now, that means paying attention to the many newer platforms carrying innovative ad content, so experiment with placing ads on platforms like TikTok, Reddit, and NextDoor and see what happens.

One advantage of marketing via smaller platforms is that they tend to be less expensive than hubs like Facebook. That being said, they are all seeing substantial traffic, and most saw significant growth during the pandemic. If they don’t yield much in the way of results, losses will be minimal, but given the topical and local targeting various platforms allow for, above and beyond standard PPC targeting, they could be just what your brand needs as it navigates the next set of marketplace transitions.

The last year has been unpredictable for businesses, but Q3 2021 may be the most uncertain yet as everyone attempts to make sense of what normal means now. The phrase “new normal,” overused and awkward as it is, gets to the heart of it: we can pretend we’re returning to our pre-pandemic lives, but very little about the world before us is familiar, so marketing needs a “new normal,” too.

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Business Marketing

Advertising overload: Let’s break it down

(BUSINESS MARKETING) A new study finds that frequent ads are actually more detrimental to a brand’s image than that same brand advertising near offensive content.

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Advertising spread across many billboards in a city square.

If you haven’t noticed, ads are becoming extremely common in places that are extremely hard to ignore—your Instagram feed, for example. Advertising has certainly undergone some scrutiny for things like inappropriate placement and messaging over the years, but it turns out that sheer ad exhaustion is actually more likely to turn people off of associated brands than the aforementioned offensive content.

Marketing Dive published a report on the phenomenon last Tuesday. The report claims that, of all people surveyed, 32% of consumers said that they viewed current social media advertising to be “excessive”; only 10% said that they found advertisements to be “memorable”.

In that same group, 52% of consumers said that excessive ads were likely to affect negatively their perception of a brand, while only 32% said the same of ads appearing next to offensive or inappropriate content.

“Brand safety has become a hot item for many companies as they look to avoid associations with harmful content, but that’s not as significant a concern for consumers, who show an aversion to ad overload in larger numbers,” writes Peter Adams, author of the Marketing Dive report.

This reaction speaks to the sheer pervasiveness of ads in the current market. Certainly, many people are spending more time on their phones—specifically on social media—as a result of the pandemic. However, with 31% and 27% of surveyed people saying they found website ads either “distracting” or “intrusive”, respectively, the “why” doesn’t matter as much as the reaction itself.

It’s worth pointing out that solid ad blockers do exist for desktop website traffic, and most major browsers offer a “reader mode” feature (or add-on) that allows users to read through things like articles and the like without having to worry about dynamic ads distracting them or slowing down their page. This becomes a much more significant issue on mobile devices, especially when ads are so persistent that they impact one’s ability to read content.

Like most industries, advertisers have faced unique challenges during the pandemic. If there’s one major takeaway from the report, it’s this: Ads have to change—largely in terms of their frequency—if brands want to maintain customer retention and loyalty.

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