My world turned upside down

Yesterday, in passing, I was called a millennial. I had done enough reading and seen enough blog posts to know the general opinions about millennials and I had rarely related to any of the defining characteristics of this label. I had been at work for 9 hours, I wasn’t IM-ing, I wasn’t texting and I wasn’t listening to dubstep,– in fact my phone was away in my desk drawer.

Some Googling revealed that, having been born after 1980, the term millennial did technically suit me. First, I felt unjustly jilted then I became paranoid. I’ve read scores of articles and blog posts written on managing millennials in the workforce, and I wondered: Had I been offered a lower base salary in lieu of benefits like flex time, a well stocked snack room, and a subsidized gym membership? Were older employees being flown to conferences because management thinks I’m more likely to trade in my stable job for a self discovery backpacking trip?

Upwardly mobile millennials are a huge target market and are the future of our economy. Currently, there are over 105 million millennials with an estimated $200 billion in spending power. Unfortunately, how millennials are managed and marketed to is usually based on preconceptions that have no grounding in reality. Here are a few incorrect assumptions that many managers and marketing teams base their strategies on.

Millennials have no sense of loyalty

Are millennials really less loyal? When it comes to brands and products the answer isn’t straightforward. Millennials, along with everyone else, have easy access to detailed information about every product space and each individual brand. Millennials are more likely to take advantage of this information and quickly become aware of disruptive products or competitors that offer a better value. Some retailers have put penalties in place to deter comparison shopping; this may reduce showrooming, but it certainly won’t inspire loyalty.  A more informed shopper means that loyalty is no longer the default, it must be earned.

A survey conducted by found that 8 out of 10 millennials feel a sense of loyalty to their employers, on the other side of the table only 1 in 100 HR professionals believe that young millennials are loyal. This is a massive inconsistency, although just like millennials are more likely to be aware of new products and services they are also more likely to be aware of other employment opportunities.

Meeting or exceeding your industry’s standards for culture and compensation are especially important for millennials.  Millennials use information available on sites like and LinkedIn and Glassdoor to view their current jobs in an informed context.

The key here is to be proactive; millennials know how your company culture and compensation stacks up, so make sure that you do too.

Cash is not a motivator

Growing up within the financial crisis has made many millennials especially conscious of the value of a dollar and the looming danger of cash flow fluctuations. Neil Howe, the author of Generations does an excellent job summing this up when he says, “They [millennials] look at the house their parents live in and say, ‘I could work for 100 years and I couldn’t afford this place,’ ” Howe said. “If that doesn’t make you focus on money, what would? Millennials have a very conventional notion of the American dream — a spouse, a house, a kid — but it is not going to be easy for them to get those things.”

At Social Annex every applicant has unique goals and motivations, but for entry level positions we’ve seen the most success in wooing not with excitement, but rather practicality and stability. Traditional metrics like money and growth potential have drawn more interest than flex time and externship programs.

Millennials buy based on brand perception and cause marketing

A recent study by The Boston Consulting Group found that millennials are 14 percent more likely to engage with brands by doing things like rating products and services and are 29 percent more likely to showroom while shopping for products. This sort of commitment to informed purchasing makes it clear that millennials care about value and quality. Cause marketing can be effective here, but insincerity or inconsistency with other aspects of your brand are more likely to be sniffed out by well informed millennials.

Ads designed to associate a strong emotion with a brand’s image, native advertisements disguised as entertainment, are often thought to be the key to millennials wallets. Moving away from one sentence advertising towards ads that go into detail and include user reviews saves millennials the time of doing the research themselves and it leads them to conversion faster and with more confidence. Think about the way car advertisements were in the 80’s compared to now: bulleted lists compared to modern ads that forgo facts to focus on communicating a feeling and brand image. Millennials are most likely to respond to a middle ground.

Win millennials

According to Yahoo, both ‘what is a 401k?’ and ‘how to tie a tie’ are among the top ten millennial searches. To retain millennial employees keep them satisfied with conventional value propositions like a matching 401k and health benefits. If you treat new millennial hires like long term investments they are likely to respond in kind. If you suppress opportunities because you view millennials as disloyal then you will create a self fulfilling prophecy.

If you want to make it easy for millennials to choose your brand and keep coming back, make it easy for them to find detailed information and unbiased UGC. Communicate your product’s specifications as much as the value proposition.

Check your assumptions

Increasingly, marketing teams are data focused with highly quantitative goals. Unfortunately, this same analytical approach is often not applied to the presuppositions that dictate who teams think they are marketing too. Too often in marketing assumptions and prejudices override data and lead to non optimal decisions. If you’re leading a marketing team, especially one with a social emphasis, take note – those young guns your marketing to as well as the ones working for you may not be who you suppose they are and your approach may be misguided.

Despite all of this gushing about millennials there is one glaring flaw that can be said about millennials. As Wikipedia puts it so plainly, “There are no new genres attributable to Generation Y thus far (other than metalcore and dubstep).”

 By: Kevin Flaherty

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