Ah, the elusive millennial consumer. One minute they are there, seemingly loving your brand, and the next, they are gone. These days, it's seems like every brand marketer is trying to quickly get a grasp of the new rules of marketing when it comes to reaching millennials. And why wouldn't they? They are currently the largest generation of consumers with more than 80 million in their ranks and a combined annual purchasing power of more than $200 billion.
Thanks to their well-documented digital and social savvinness, it's easier for brands to connect with these consumers in ways they couldn't before the advent of platforms like Facebook and Twitter. As the latest research has uncovered, we know that while non-millennials spend roughly the same amount of time online, millennials are more likely to use the Internet as a platform to broadcast their thoughts and experiences in the form of ratings and reviews of their favorite and least favorite brands. Moreover, millennials also happen to have more online connections, making these ratings and reviews even more influential.
But while millennials like to share their opinions, this doesn't necessarily translate into an interest in hearing from brands. Indeed, a recent Forrester report states that "[brands] might be better off being more reactive than proactive, and they should listen," finding that just 16 percent of young consumers expect brands to use social media to interact with them. Even more telling, almost half of 12- to 17-year-olds don’t think brands should have a presence using social tools at all.
So how can a brand effectively connect with these consumers? One strategy that is ripe for exploration is taping into the strong bond that millennials have with their parents. Not only are they closer to their parents than generations that came before, both in terms of proximity (think of all of those recent college grads moving home to save) and socially (many are friends, if not best friends, with their parents), millennials care deeply what their parents think and, as a result, are unlikely to make decisions without their parent’s input.
Want to reach the millennial consumer? Include their parents in your marketing plan:
1. Know who will make the final say
While we already know that millennials are savvy about their purchase choices, they aren't necessarily able to act. Often it's their parents who are opening their wallets to close the deal. Given this reality, marketers need to think about how their message will be conveyed by the primary target (the millennial) to the secondary target (his or her parents).
No longer is it merely about how their primary target reacts to the message. After all, if parents are ultimately the ones whipping out the credit card for these purchases, it's important to know (and be able to influence) how millennial children are carrying and translating that brand message to their parents who will ultimately have the final say.
2. Take time to educate all parties
Many millennials concede that they don't feel like adults yet, taking longer than their predecessors to "complete school, leave the nest, become financially independent, and start families." Even those with good-paying jobs in the real world confess the same.
So it comes as no surprise that many millennial consumers don't entirely trust their own abilities when it comes to making big -ticket purchase decisions like buying a home or car. Millennials have an information-hungry nature, leading them to consult multiple sources before making purchase decisions. Their parents, part of their "trusted" network of advisors, suddenly have great sway over these decisions. Thus brands need to ensure that they are not only educating the millennial consumer about the superiority of their product offering but educating their parents as well.
3. Moms rule
We've already covered how millennials are influential consumers given their strong online social ties. More influential than millennial shoppers? Their moms. Indeed, research has uncovered that moms are among the top users of social networks and are likely to use their social media connections to recommend and find trusted information about products and services. Add that to the fact that moms make most of the financial decisions for a majority of households, marketers can't afford to ignore moms when it comes to marketing to millennials. According to a 360PR and Mom It Forward study on the subject, 50% of moms make a brand or product recommendation either daily or weekly, and 21% of moms talk to their friends and family members about products at least once per month. Whatever form the recommendation take, whether offline or online, take advantage of their proclivity to share by targeting your next campaign to moms with one big caveat: don't overdo it. Fifty-five percent of moms said that they had de-liked, unfriended, or stopped following a brand because they were receiving too many ads, according to one blog on the subject.
The bottom line: When it comes to reaching millennial consumers, don't forget the parents (especially mom)!
Related: How to Manage Generational Dynamics
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Christie Garton is the founder of U Chic Media, a publisher of books and online content targeted at high school and college-aged women. She is the co-author of Marketing to Milllennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever (AMACOM 2013).