Why do millennials dislike traditional marketing?

It might surprise you to know there is no definitive date range for what makes someone part of the Millennial generation. Pew Research Center has the most logical system, putting anyone born between 1981 and 1996 into it.

Millennials are so called because they grew up for and came of age at the turn of the Millennium, the year 2000. It seems so long ago, yet the youngest a Millennial could be now is 23 and the oldest they could be is 38.

Of course, generations themselves are not simple caricatures, but complex and diverse groups, and the differences in these groups are often as great as the differences found across generations. Yet Millennials – the generation who grew up with the mobile phone and Sega Mega Drive – are in agreement they hate traditional marketing.

That’s according to a study by the McCarthy Group, in which 84% of Millennials taking part stated they do not like traditional marketing/ advertising.

Why the hate?

Traditional marketing has origins predating the Millennial generation. It typically involves print ads, billboards, flyers, TV, newspaper and radio.

This tried and tested formula of identifying and satisfying needs and wants in adverts – some might say the art of manipulating selling messages – is lost on Millennials because they don’t trust it, and trust is key with marketing.

We know this because in the same McCarthy Group study we mentioned before, those participants said so. They consistently rated advertising as less trustworthy than other sources, including company websites and even what their friends say on social media, and there was no discernible difference by age.

Research tells us Millennials don’t spend time on these things either, perhaps in part because of the technology leap in the 00s, but probably because of that trust barrier. They rely on digital sources of information above all else. Websites and social media are the main sources online. TV is the main ‘traditional’ source.

What do they like?

It appears trust is the key with Millennials which explains why traditional marketing/ advertising has no impact whatsoever with them.

So what do they like? A study from Defy sheds some light. It shows 85% of Millennials regularly watch YouTube, and of those, 58% of Millennials don’t mind watching ads to support influencers and digital personalities, and 87% of Millennials don’t mind product endorsements in videos so long as they are endorsed by a digital personality. So a familiar face works to market products in video.

Also on the subject of video, 85% of Millennials taking part in a survey conducted by Brightcove last year said they have purchased a product after watching a video. Reviews, explainers, demos and how-to videos work well.

Outside of video, a study by kissmetrics found 89% of Millennials trust recommendations from friends and family more than claims by brands. This is difficult to market to, but word of mouth is the nearest traditional advertising technique. Putting products in people’s hands in return for reviews is the vice for that.

Also, not so much a shocking stat, but more than nine-in-ten (92%) of Millennials own a smartphone. This gives them the ability to consume content and information any place, any time. It also gives marketers the opportunity to leverage smartphone sensors. For example, you could leverage proximity sensors and GPS to send offers to potential customers as they walk past a shop. It’s simpler than you’d think.

Millennials also love rewards. They rate rewards higher than Boomers do according to a Nielson study. In that same study, 80% of Millennials said they find points or rewards for purchasing appealing. They also liked the ability to choose their own reward (81%) and the opportunity to earn bonuses without buying (81%).

In another more recent study from Alliance Data, 63% of Millennials said brands must show them loyalty to earn their business.

What this tells us is Millennials love a good reward, and the brands that offer these are more likely to have a repeat customer. This is about building rapport, which is a type of trust and familiarity. That’s how to win over Millennials.

As we mentioned previously, however, Millennials like all generations are complex and diverse. We can’t put them all into the same bracket. What we can be sure of though is they consume more digital content than print, have a smartphone, have internet, and are more engaged than ever. They’re heavily influenced by their peers and online networks. And they are absolutely not interested in traditional marketing.



Lois Hatch


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