20 Oct 2014

Reaching Millennials: How Brands Need to Adapt To Changes In Modern Culture

Barack Obama recently stated that he is betting on millennials to reshape the American economy.

Media research giant Nielsen defines Millennials as adults in the 18- to 36-year-old age group. One of the most important signifiers of this generation is that they are digital natives. In other words, they have not had to adapt to the overwhelming cultural influence of the internet, because they grew up with it. They’re also the most avid users of internet technology, according to Pew Research.

Although 81% of Millennials are on Facebook, according to Pew, 90% say that people share too much about themselves online. Moreover, Millennials have relatively low levels of “social trust,” with only 19% agreeing that “most people can be trusted.” Significantly more people in older generations believe that most people are trustworthy.

Other interesting facts about Millennials, culled from Nielsen include:

  • Millennials make up 24% of the US population
  • Only 21% of Millennials are married, while twice as many Baby Boomers were married when they were in the same age group
  • Twenty-three percent of Millennials hold Bachelor’s degrees or higher
  • Millennials are more racially and ethnically diverse than older generations
  • Thirty-eight percent of Millennials are bilingual – significantly more than older generations

Techniques that worked for brands in reaching older demographics cannot be counted on to work with Millennials.

Changes now and changes to come

One change that became evident as soon as Millennials started reaching adulthood is that they are far less invested in traditional media than other generations. Rather, young adults are more likely to trust peers than professionals, and they have a particular affinity for user-generated content.

User-generated content includes things like blog posts, user reviews, and social media status updates. A study by Crowdtap found that user-generated content is 20% more influential on Millennial purchases than traditional media content and ads. They also consider user-generated content to be more memorable than other types of content.

Millennials are not expected to go back to older media like television, radio, and print. They increasingly use mobile devices for work, banking, making purchases, watching videos, and searching for jobs, so brands that don’t understand mobile technology and use it to their advantage will have a significantly harder time reaching Millennials.

Connecting and socializing

According to the BCG 2013 Global Consumer Sentiment Survey, Millennials engage with their favorite brands through social networks, with over half saying that they use social media on mobile devices to “Like” brands. This is a much higher percentage than with older age groups. Furthermore, nearly 40% post product reviews, and 32% follow brands on Twitter.

The good news for brands is that Millennials engage with brands everywhere they go. There’s less worry about timing an ad for a particular television programme in a particular time slot. There are also more opportunities to engage with Millennials, because they’re “plugged in” wherever they are. Brands must be willing to engage with Millennials anytime and anyplace.

It’s not all about social media

Brands should not, however, think that all it takes is a good Facebook strategy. The unprecedented success of Facebook a few years ago has been followed by some disillusionment. Teens, perhaps younger siblings of today’s Millennials, use Facebook less than adults. These younger users are increasingly migrating to peer-to-peer messaging apps, and these provide less opportunity for brand engagement and fewer options for advertising.

WhatsApp and Snapchat have more active users than Facebook and Twitter together, and it’s not just teens who are turning to these apps, but Millennials as well. If this trend keeps up, brands and agencies targeting Millennials could find that the social advertising revolution has changed considerably in a few years’ time.

Reaching out to millennials

Right now, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are the big players in the social advertising game. But with newer platforms, which may not include ad solutions, brands could have a harder time working themselves into the conversation. That means that brands will have to become more creative in their content distribution.

Native advertising and user-generated content are two ways brands are reaching out to Millennials. The rise of apps like Instagram are already changing how brands look. With increasing amounts of user content being pulled from social media sites and integrated into brand sites, the perfectly staged, “stock” ad imagery is starting to look out of place, particularly to Millennials.


Some of the ways brands can more effectively reach Millenials include:

  • Embracing mobility
  • User-generated content
  • Native advertising
  • Revamping brand imagery

Reaching this savvy, diverse group requires engagement, and the diversity of this demographic means that accurate translation services like those offered by TranslateMedia are critical to reaching out to Millennials. Moreover, brands can’t simply copy an ad campaign from one country and apply it to another.

They need to work with experienced translation services that understand that it is an overall brand that is being translated, and not just advertising copy. This is particularly true with native advertising, where cultural knowledge can make the difference between success and failure.

Understanding Millennials means more than staking out virtual real estate on Twitter and Facebook. The Millennial generation has been shaped by the global recession of 2008, rising living costs, and disillusionment with the lives of their Generation X and Baby Boomer parents. Understanding the overall culture in which Millennials came of age and now exist is essential to reaching this increasingly powerful demographic.


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