Everyone in the marketing industry seems to be stumbling over themselves in an effort to find some key to marketing to Millennials. Millennials now make up over one quarter of the American population, and they have an annual buying power of over $200 billion. By the end of this year, the collective buying power of Millennials is expected to be larger than all other demographics combined, so it is no surprise that marketers have shifted most of their focus and budgets towards this new generation of adults.

But Millennials are clearly unlike any other generation in history, and they seem to be the consumer equivalent of a unicorn to advertisers. They tend to reject traditional advertising, and this is forcing the market to adjust to them. So as a marketer, how do you reach a diverse demographic that rejects your traditional methods and is defined by their unique differences from other generations?

The Key Aspects of Marketing to Millennials

Who Are Millennials?

To understand this demographic, it is first necessary to define it. The most common definition of a Millennial is a person between the ages of 18-34, but that seems to have been the same guideline for a few years now. Since people actually get older as time progresses, it is necessary to have a more concrete, static definition, so we will say that Millennials are people who are born between the years of 1980-1999.

However, within that specified age group, there are still hundreds (perhaps thousands) of sub-groups from gender to race to geographic location and many more. Millennials are parents, singles, single parents, students, homeowners, high-income, low-income and everything in between.

To put it simply, Millennials are people, and you cannot expect to have any success in marketing towards them by generalizing this large, diverse group. But while Millennials make up a diverse demographic, they still show some specific buying habits and advertising preferences as a whole.

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Digital Natives

The one thing that can be said about nearly all Millennials with some certainty is that they are more connected and more comfortable with technology than any previous generation. Most have known no other way of life than one that is heavily influenced by technology, most specifically mobile technology. They are comfortable with finding information in a number of ways from phones to tablets to laptops, and marketers will have to take an omni-channel approach to have success.

A study done in 2014 found that 84 percent of Millennials do not trust traditional advertising, and marketers will need to think outside the box to reach them. Millennials crave content-driven media that specifically addresses a need, as opposed to traditional commercials or ads. They will be much more receptive to information found in a blog, eBook or online forum than advertising that is purely advertising. In fact, 80 percent of Millennials say that user-generated content has at least some influence on what they buy.

The New Word of Mouth

Millennials also get much of their information from social media and online reviews. This means that they are constantly connected to a large group of purchasing advisors at all times, and 73 percent of Millennials say that it is important to read the opinions of others before purchasing a product. Just as importantly, 70 percent feel that it is their responsibility to share feedback after a positive or negative experience with companies. This creates a sort of organic, digital word-of-mouth which advertisers can use to create loyal brand evangelists.

“Millennials are smart, social people,” says one marketing expert from Brown Box Branding. “They value authenticity more than anything, and they can be the most loyal group of consumers to businesses that build relationships with them. They will then share these positive experiences with large groups of friends, family and others with similar buying habits. That’s better than any marketing budget can buy.”