By Sujan Patel
Originally published on Entrepreneur.
Millennials — young adults who are currently between ages 18 and 34 — wield $1.3 trillion in annual buying power. That’s certainly enough to make any marketer sit up and take notice. But despite common misconceptions of the group as a single, narcissistic entity, U.S. millennials are diverse. Nearly 43 percent are non-white and roughly 25 percent speak a language other than English at home.
With such a diverse group — and such preconceived notions about its personality and interests — it can be hard to know how to approach marketing to this generation. However, there are certain characteristics that are shared between nearly all millennials, and those that aren’t can be targeted through niche marketing.
1. Rock your mobile marketing.
Marketing through mobile devices is important in general, but given that 85 percent of millennials in the U.S. own smartphones, it’s essential when you’re targeting this generation.
To excel at mobile marketing, first consider the basics. Are your landing pages optimized for mobile? Are they too graphics-intensive, making load times longer with slower connections? Is your call to action clear, even on a smaller screen?
After you’ve done that, it’s time to get creative. Brian Wong, himself a millennial, figured out how to integrate advertising natively into mobile gaming by allowing companies to offer rewards after in-game accomplishments. His company, Kiip, also integrates advertising with other types of mobile apps, allowing companies such as Gatorade to offer rewards to users — in this instance, after specific fitness accomplishments.
Finding ways to integrate your advertising natively into popular mobile applications and programs, especially if it’s styled as a reward, is a great way to reach millennials.
2. Target social groups, instead of life stages.
Millennials are the most non-traditional generation so far, and they don’t value traditional life-stage advertising the way previous generations did. They view life differently. The word “family” has many different meanings, not all of which are connected to marriage. “Community” has a variety of meanings as well, and their physical neighborhood is not likely the first thing they think of.
In addition, milestones such as purchasing a home are less attainable for many millennials, given the economic conditions they face. And that’s assuming they even want to — a growing trend among young people is to work toward a location-independent, traveling lifestyle. Adult life isn’t linear for millennials, and advertisers have to adjust accordingly.
Instead of focusing on life stages, target millennials based on social groups. For example, you can focus your attention on population segments that are drawn to social causes, those who are in alternative lifestyles or those who avidly follow specific social media personalities. Millennials are much more likely to have a strong attachment to these social identities than they are to strongly identify with a specific stage of life.
3. Be relevant and engaging.
While this strategy obviously applies to all generations, it’s required for millennials. A good deal of millennials have never known a world without the Internet and social media. As a result, they’re the last group you can expect to simply accept your message on face value and take the action you request.
Instead, millennials are focused on solving real life problems through online research — both in search and social media. Brands that can bring relevant, simple solutions to real world problems are the ones that are going to win attention from this generation.
In addition, you need to be engaging. Roughly 95 percent of millennials say that friends are the most credible source of product information. This means that if you can engage a customer base within this generation and create brand evangelists, you’ll see far better results than you will through any other form of traditional online marketing. The best way to get your message heard among millennials is to have millennials themselves spreading the word.
All of this means that you need to be relevant, engaging and building community as you share your products and services. Otherwise, millennials will ignore you as just part of the inevitable noise of a connected world.
Marketing to millennials doesn’t have to be hard. By rocking your mobile marketing, targeting social groups instead of life stages and being relevant and engaging, you’ll definitely make a splash with this demographic. Beyond these three tips, you’ll want to segment the population and drill down to the exact ideal buyer you’re targeting. Millennials are incredibly diverse, so the more segmentation you can achieve, the more return you’ll see for your marketing dollar.