The time has passed for curmudgeon outrage over avocado toast. “Millennials” is now just a loaded epithet for “adults under 40.” They’re buying houses, establishing careers and raising a new generation of kids.
As such, their needs are evolving. “The oldest millennials are starting to think about what their next stage of life looks like and making decisions that look more similar to what we’d expect that age group to do,” writes Jeannette Chapman, economic researcher and deputy director of George Mason University’s Stephen S. Fuller Institute. “They’re growing up.”
That means it’s time for our marketing campaigns for millennials to rev up a little bit as well.
Urban chic gives way to quieter, more affordable homes.
One of the millennials’ major life decisions now is where to live as they approach middle life. Ten years ago, they went against the grain of previous generations by championing high-density urban living. But after years of gentrification and skyrocketing costs — let alone the onset of parenting — millennials are starting to look out of town.
Based on a survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, financial company SmartAsset says millennials are moving to places like Dallas, Norfolk and Colorado Springs instead of urban hubs like New York, San Francisco and, increasingly, Denver. Instinctively pairing millennials with urban bourgeois imagery may no longer fit. Instead, consider planning your marketing strategies for smaller, quieter cities and even suburban locales.
Tech-enriched homes should aim for smart, not flashy.
Despite a love/hate relationship with technology, the current consensus among adults under 40, according to Deloitte, is that the benefits of tech fixations like personal devices and social media outweigh the costs.
Millennials aren’t seeking tech for tech’s sake, the way their dads ogled Sharper Image catalogs in the ‘80s. According to Deloitte, they want to spend their money where it will enrich their lives and make things easier, especially considering the “macroeconomic and day-to-day anxieties weighing on millennials’ minds” and their “bleak expectations for the economy.”
Updating marketing strategies to reflect these sensibilities will give you more pull with hyper-informed and selective millennial customers. Aim for up-to-date offerings that are also practical, especially for tech.
Trade optimistic fantasy for supportive empathy.
The millennial workforce is more diverse in race and gender than previous generations and is now second only to Baby Boomers in size. They’re better educated than previous generations, with more than twice as many college degrees compared to the Silent Generation, according to Pew. But being big, diverse and better educated has not given them an economic edge. They’re actually lower in wealth than Boomers were at similar ages, thanks to factors like the Great Recession.
Related: 3 Tips to Keep Millennials Engaged
This alludes again to the economic anxieties cited in Deloitte’s research. Empathizing with the precarious, demanding economic situations adults under 40 now face should help to set the tone for your marketing efforts. The optimistic wanderlust and escapist FOMO of early social media influencer strategies are holding less sway as the millennial audience grows more realistic and mature. Instead, play to the sensibilities of educated and plugged-in adults with increasing responsibilities and little support.
In summary, marketing to millennials used to be tricky. Their youthfulness and tech-savvy ways kept us on our toes as we redefined authenticity and sought new and fresher ways to bring brand identities to life. While these needs still apply, adults under 40 are revealing themselves to be regular adults after all, with grounded and sensible needs. There’s a set of new opportunities emerging for conversations about what it means to live in a world of new requirements and how today’s savviest brands and services can help.