Five tips for connecting with Millennials

publication date: Jul 6, 2012
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Entitled generation. Future customers. Social media connectors - or reality-dodgers. However you view them, the millennial generation, sometimes called Generation Y, will eventually be the majority of your potential audience. Born between 1981 and 1989, the youngest are just graduating from post-secondary training and developing their adult habits, while the oldest are already taking up leadership roles.Janet Gadeski photo

Understanding this demographic, says marketing expert Colleen Dilenschneider, is essential for your future. What's interesting about her insights into Millennials is that more and more, they apply to older demographic groups as well. She has five insights to help you understand their mindset. 

1.     Sell your mission 

It's cool to be kind among Millenials, she claims. Within the for-profit sphere, 89% are likely or very likely to switch brands based on cause affiliation, three-quarters are more likely to heed a company's messages if the company is deeply committed to a cause, and two-thirds consider a company's social and environmental commitment when they decide where to shop. 

That's good news for nonprofits. Play up your mission, but be aware that just being a nonprofit isn't enough. For-profit companies are more and more likely to trumpet their trust, transparency and communication, as well as their social responsibility. That blurs the traditional notion that nonprofits are the only purveyors of societal improvement. 

2.     Experience is everything 

If you've never heard the phrase "experience economy," now is the time to read up on it. As Dilenschneider explains it, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, who coined the phrase in 1998, claim that businesses must create memorable events for customers. The memory then becomes the product. That, she says, is what Millennials are looking for. 

3.     Get to the point fast 

Millennials have what Pew Research calls "AOADD" - Always-On-Attention-Deficit-Disorder. Habitual multi-taskers, they are simultaneously connected and distracted. To get your point across, you'll have to do it quickly, probably through pictures and videos. 

4.     Yes, you'll need social media 

Using social technology is a natural habit for Millennials, Dilenschneider explains. Over half believe that technology brings them closer to friends and family and allows people to use their time more efficiently, according to research from Pew. And for them, she continues, "the connections that Millennials are making to brands and to one another online are real. Organizations will benefit by understanding this and taking it seriously." 

5.     Help them be famous 

Buzz Marketing CEO Tina Wells says Millennials are marked by what she calls "Warholism." She defines Warholism as "the unending quest for fame and the desire to attract attention by any means." That explains their use of social platforms like YouTube and Facebook. 

To inspire engagement with Millennials, Dinenschneider recommends bringing them into your marketing and PR. A big part of it, she says, is saying "thank you" meaningfully - something that good fundraisers already do. But the means have changed, thanks to social media. For example, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese individually thanked 4,800 fans who liked a Facebook status by listing each one of them in a song. The song ran for over six minutes, but for Millennials, it's the individual public recognition that matters. 

As a cash-strapped nonprofit, you may not be able to do that. But take the principle, Dinenschneider urges, and run with it - straight towards your new millennial audience.

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