6 Misconceptions About Millennials That Hurt Brands

Millennial: Public Relations

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A few years ago, marketing or using public relations with Millennials was little more than a social experiment. Now, it’s a top priority for nearly every business. A generation no longer synonymous with youth, Millennials are now the most lucrative market, with $200 billion in annual buying power and devices that empower them to make purchases from virtually anywhere.

“Millennials are adults and have been for some time,” said Jon Gunnells, Social and Digital Media Manager at Airfoil Group. “They own homes, have kids and C-level titles. In about a decade, Millennials will make up the majority of the workforce and have even more significant spending power.”

The race is on for equity in the Millennial market, but many businesses are stumbling out of the gates. This can be partially attributed to old, ineffective advertising methods that brands continue to employ instead of innovating new strategies. But the far more damaging mistake brands make is buying into — and even perpetuating — myths about Millennials that prove how out of touch they truly are.

I spoke with Gunnells, a Millennial in his own right, about some of the misconceptions hurting brands when it comes to marketing to his generation.

They’re OMG About Acronyms

If there’s one quality Millennials value, it’s authenticity. So when they see brands pepper ads with acronyms like “YOLO,” it’s seen as a lazy effort to relate to them. It can also be condescending — just because Millennials use acronyms in their personal lives doesn’t mean they need brands to dumb down their ads to get their messages across.

What in the Word?

No IHOP, your pancakes are not on fleek — I don’t care how delicious they are. Many brands figure that in order to ingratiate themselves with Millennials, they need to speak their language. This isn’t wrong in the proper context, but when a traditionally square brand forces slang like “bae” and “turnt” into their communications, it’s not uncommon for Millennials to “keep it a hundred” with their feelings of disdain.

They Only Care About Themselves

Fickle. Arrogant. Self-obsessed. False stereotypes about Millennials abound, but there’s one that really stands out. “The biggest misconception is that we are irresponsible or lazy just because we check our phones a lot,” said Gunnells. “We may send out Tweets during the day, but we will also answer an email for a client at 10:30 p.m. because it’s the way we are programmed. Too often I see Millennials mischaracterized by older generations. Millennials are doing, and have been doing, great things for years.”

Insert Sad Face Emoji

Millennials love using emojis with their friends, almost as much as they hate seeing emojis used by their brands. While 92 percent of online consumers use emojis, only 3 percent feel they have a place in brand communications.

They’re All Tech Savvy

Millennials are digital natives who rely on smartphones like oxygen, but that doesn’t mean they’re all tech savvy. While leveraging digital media to drive engagement is a smart and even necessary advertising tactic, it’s important not to overcomplicate. Instead, use simple calls to action that a consumer with nothing more than a working knowledge of the Internet would be able to understand.

They’re All Impulse Buyers

Although mobile devices have accelerated the path to purchase, there’s not necessarily a correlation between Millennials and impulse buying. “The difference between Millennials and other generations is that we are more research-focused,” said Gunnells. “We’ve grown up with a wealth of information that we use before buying products. We aren’t going to walk into a car dealership without comparing models, prices and options. We won’t even go to dinner without viewing Yelp ratings and menu options.”

Follow Jon Gunnells on Twitter at @GunnSh0w.
More reading on the topic: May 25, 2016 – New York Times: “Corporate America Chases the Mythical Millennial”

Learn more about key audiences, continue to read more here at the No Red Lights blog.

By Alex Altman

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