Do you know why companies find it difficult to reach the millennial? Simple. They don’t understand them. The prevailing stereotype is that all millennials are selfish hipsters. All taking selfies of themselves eating kale. Sometimes described as the “Me Me Me” generation, they have somehow earned a bad reputation of being impossible to manage.
As a millennial (only just) myself, I tend to find this amusing.
Atish Davda discusses Overcoming Millennial Workplace Stereotypes and how they are supposed to be “lazy, entitled, delusional, narcissistic and unreliable”. Although the author himself doesn’t buy into these stereotypes, he still points out that prejudiced views like this are self-perpetuating. All it takes is someone born between 1980 and 1996 acting marginally millennial-ish, and the stereotype is presumed to be true.
Of course, the “boomers” that fail to understand the millennial generation forget a few very prevalent facts:
- The world and its politics have rapidly changed.
- Educational standards have improved.
- The technologies around us have evolved.
- Information is more available.
- The millennial is the first generation to live a public life on the internet in quite so full a manner.
No wonder they are misunderstood. Previous generations simply didn’t have the same opportunities available to them. However, the reality is that your company needs millennials. Regardless of your comic opinion of this generation, millennials need to be reached, they are the biggest generation.
Ergo, they are your biggest opportunity.
Millennials and email
In many ways, this generation of avocado enthusiasts is eschewing traditional mediums. They don’t buy print magazines. Or, Click on banner ads. Nor, Spend much time reading the post, or watching terrestrial television.
They are the selfie generation. Give them a hip and naughty social media outlet. Provide them with an app. Hook them with a GIF, Meme or Vine. New technology and communication mediums are replacing the old.
So considering email is 47 years old, that means email is living on borrowed time right?
As Antoniya Koleva Zorluer points out in her blog How to Email Market to Millennials, many millennials “can’t even use the bathroom without checking their email”. This wasn’t a mere throwaway, quasi-sarcastic comment from a quick-witted writer. She pulls her research from Harvard Business Review, and a 2016 Adobe discussion on the The Millennials Myth. As would be expected, neither study is disparaging of the millennial and both of them suggest that email is still the best way to reach them.
Indeed, Kristin Naragon from the Harvard Business Review makes a stunning summary of the reach that email really has with millennials. “98% of Millennials check their personal email at least every few hours at work, while almost 87% of Millennials check their work email outside of work”.
So it is not about whether or not email will work. It is about how we make it work.
So how do we make it work?
Consider the assumptions you are making
Whatever negative assumptions and stereotypes you attribute to the millennial, the more positive assumption is that the millennial is politically, and technologically, savvy. As flattering as this might be, it could also be the biggest mistake you will make.
Bic pens can attest to this thanks to their “For Her” products that got some insanely snippy reviews on Amazon. To highlight the point quite adequately, one reviewer attacked the brand with “Finally! For years I’ve had to rely on pencils, or at worst, a twig and some drops of my feminine blood to write down recipes”.
This problem happens if a brand piggy-backs upon an important social movement. The millennial may reach their circle with feminist, environmentally supportive, or LGBTQ posts. But, cynically jumping on these issues in order to sell your products will be met with excoriating venom.
Millennials are intelligent, and willing to debate important social points. They are also analytical and quick researchers, and unless you are willing to back your political point in a serious manner, the backlash from this group will be swift. By all means, support their political views when emailing them. But if you do, your company needs to be seen to be doing more than simply writing an email jockeying women, homosexuals and vegans.
A readable, scan-able, reach
Campaign Monitor‘s Lizzie Kardon makes some very interesting points about marketing to the millennial. Perhaps her most important point comes from her discussions about the busy lives of millennials. As we “spend so much time with multiple devices” in front of us all day long, we are “used to shortcuts”. But in general, the millennial is busy, so they take less time wading through massive amounts of texts. Whereas, for almost every generation, we are probably already using attractive graphics and templates our minimalism should be applied to content too.
Provide bullet points. Write shorter sentences. Employ dual read on keywords. Create headers. Reach the Millennial.
Within a few seconds a decision to read or to trash has been made. If your email looks easy to read and is easy to scan, you will reach the millennial.
Watch your tone
The last thing that will reach the millennial is yet another “boomer” dictating terms. Telling them what to do isn’t going to make them buy your products. As Matthew Manos asserts in very eloquent terms: “you can’t put a clever line on a poster and expect my generation to read it – instead, you need to initiate a conversation and talk with us, not at us“.
More than ever voice is important. But in many ways it should be easier to manage. If Matthew Manos’ quote points out anything it is the following two points:
- A casual voice will reach better than a formal tone
- Millennials want to be part of the conversation
Anyone who has read two or more of my articles can probably predict what is coming. But yes, a little humour wouldn’t go amiss. It can be so tempting to write in the most eloquent English possible, including all those important Oxford comma’s and keeping your participles un-dangled. I find myself making this same point over and over. However, massive attention to the spellings and structural nuances of stuffy English systems is a lot less important than the language that your customer speaks.
As the millennials want to be part of the experience, asking questions and integrating your emails with social media are an excellent idea. If being asked to contribute, or interact with your content, the Millennial may just feel that they are a part of the conversation.
Don’t forget the mobile
It really goes without saying, but millennials are mobile. They check their emails in bed. On the toilet? Yes they might be opening an email or two. I don’t think anyone can dictate the best time to send email anymore. The world is entirely mobile, information is atomic and accessible anywhere. The mobility of the millennial means the you should consider the following:
- A/B split testing. Your target audience might not be opening between 9 and 5, but it is still best to try and discover when your contact list is more successful.
- Mobile Repsonsive Templates. If your templates are not responsive to mobiles, then your campaign might be a waste of time.
- Visually Engaging. A plain text text email may not quite have the same effect as one with bright, yet minimal, imagery.
It is time we moved past disparaging and mocking millennials. No matter how much fun it might be, we are at a point when it could bounce back. Consider the fact that they are the largest generational demographic alive. They are going to be around a lot longer than the “boomers”. If you don’t connect with this generation then that could mean ten years of struggling to make contact.
What I don’t mean is, we should go out all ‘mutton-dressed-as-lamb’ trying to get down-wiv-da-kidz. What I mean, it is time to generate conversation whilst keeping real to yourself. Millennials don’t want performance, they want transparency. Honesty.
As always, comments are welcomed and encouraged. I would be interested in hearing your own experiences with marketing to millennials.