As the Baby Boomers “silver tsunami” enters its golden years, most companies are leaping generations to start targeting the next wave of big spenders: Millennials. This young group represents the future of nearly every industry and is more than willing to step into the roles of buying your products.
Hearing this might make you think that it’s time to introduce a website that’s nothing but whitespace and pictures of smiling teenagers having fun at the beach. That might’ve worked a few years ago, but the Millennial landscape has changed, and so has their preference for products and online experiences.
What could be most important is that their idea of aesthetic has moved beyond what something feels like to a connection. The way your brand looks, what it says, and how it helps are now all intricately woven into a single identity and appearance.
This unifying force is at the heart of what it means to market to Millennials, and we’re about to break it down even more to discover that they want to connect with your brand on a deep level, but you have to look the part to get them to bite.
Defining the revenue generation
It’s easy to conjure up a snarky image of Millennials. They’re the butt of a wide range of jokes across nearly every platform, and the term for their generation has become the go-to when talking about young, naive, or confused folk who want to stick it to the man by wasting money on things other generations don’t buy.
The problem is that much of this is not true. As the U.S. Federal Reserve notes in a recent paper, “millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ significantly from those of earlier generations.” They want much of the same things as prior generations, especially when it comes to big purchases like house or cars, they just have a lot less money to buy those things (which are also getting more expensive).
That frame of wanting but not being able to have is where you and your aesthetic come in to play. You want to build out a look and feel that gets Millennials (and all other shoppers) to connect with the want and then provide a price point that has them able to say “yes.”
Everyone: the experience aesthetic
If you’ve paid attention to any Millennial marketing this year, you’ve heard that they prefer to spend their money on experiences instead of products. The data around that is iffy, especially as Millennials become parents, established professionals, and homeowners.
What the focus on experiences does get right is that want we talked about earlier. Millennials want to keep up with their cohort and take all the fabulous vacations, have wonderful toys, get a big home and car, and much more. Social media makes it easy to find friends who, when taken together, have all of these. So, it’s natural that Millennials would want it all too.
For your brand, this means selling based on the idea of that experience. Your products aren’t just about accomplishing a task or meeting a need. They’re about the positive feelings that they bring when someone has the experience of using them. Bath bombs are marketed as luxurious because they both relax you and signal that you have 30 or 60 minutes in a jampacked day to just sit, relax, and get away from it all.
Aesthetic plays a role because all of your design choices should point to that experience. Warm or luxurious colors, imagery that feels lazily relaxed, and copy that tells us how we’re going to feel when we’ve escaped the emails, texts, kids, and everything else for a moment to ourselves.
Older Millennials are looking for a little help
The reason we started to break the Millennial idea down earlier is that the use of technology and their desires in products and brands are diverging. As people grow older, their needs and families are changing.
The median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men, an age range that splits the Millennial group. Older millennials are more likely to be married and more likely to have children than the younger subset. They’re using media in drastically different ways and defining how their lives should differently.
The aesthetic of the older Millennial has changed and is embracing family in a way that seeks connection and a little help. They’re looking for guidance on everything from what to buy to look cool to how to help their kids have a better day, and they’re willing to let brands be the people who tell them what’s what.
Google provides interesting survey data — yes it heavily favors YouTube, but we can extrapolate to broader terms — that found 86% of Millennial dads are watching videos on parenting topics such as cooking or the stuff their kids need. About 75% of all Millennial parents say they are open to watching YouTube videos on these topics if they come from a brand and almost as many are using those same videos to figure out what to buy for their kids.
This is just one subset within the larger cohort, but it’s an important lesson to keep in mind. The aesthetic for this group is about the feeling of getting help and acknowledging their family. Your business can embrace that understand by diving head-first with how-to’s on family issues and what it means to have little ones in the house.
Let’s just back to our bath bomb example. What if this brand put together a series of videos on how to make breakfast faster or crockpot recipes that could cook all day with just 15 minutes of prep. The initial effort is a time-saving, stress-reducing aesthetic, and the final brand message could show how the best way to use that extra time saved is by having a moment alone to relax.
Young Millennials can look like their favorites
Now, let’s address those Millennials your brain conjured up when you first read the title of this article.
We all know that Instagram is overflowing with a certain kind of twenty-something wearing a certain kind of clothing, in a certain kind of location. They all look basically the same and fashion trends seem to arrive in their photos all at once. These are influencers, getting paid to amass thousands or millions of followers and then show off the latest product to get paid.
And, young Millennials think they all have a shot at being the next influencer. They’re studying and dreaming of making it big because a key part of the influencer movement is that they feel just like us.
So, that means one very important thing: targeting younger Millennials means always being in a state of flux where you chase after what’s next. Trends no longer last year — sorry 90’s grunge and flannel — they’re gone in days. If you want to reach them, you’ll need a team to scour Instagram profiles and keep on creating what’s next.
Or you can jump the creation route and head straight to the influencers themselves, looking for niches related to your audience to find a voice for your brand. It’s becoming more popular when targeting these younger Millennials, especially given that 40% say influencers understand them more than their friends.
The hard part about social media is that nearly every group and subgroup have its own look and feel. Trying to match them consistently might end up being costlier than creating a relationship with an influencer who speaks to your audience for you.
If you’re really struggling to understand them or reach them, look for the quizzes that were so popular 5 years ago. They’ve morphed to become articles that tell us who we are. Vice has a good one that lays out all the characteristics of different Instagram aesthetics by personality type, which can help you figure out how to look like the people you’re targeting.
And make it mobile
Don’t let your hard work go to waste by designing a look and feel that doesn’t translate into mobile design.
Roughly 92% of Millennials own a smartphone, but only slightly more than half have a tablet. So, designing for those bigger screens might be useful for some of your traffic but won’t capture all of this Millennial cohort. Their browsing and actions are taking place on mobiles. Target them where they want to be.
If you’re thinking “this doesn’t matter to me because I’m in the X market,” well you might want to give that a re-think. Millennials demand responsive design for everyone (even non-profits and charities) and they want to be able to accomplish any task (such as donating) via whatever device they’re currently using.
The Instagram aesthetic is mobile-first, so you should be too.
By Jake Rheude. Jake is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an