How to Market to Millennials

How to Market to Millennials

We’ve all heard the term but what exactly is a Millennial? Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials are represented by 86 million people, which means they’ve outpopulated the Baby Boomer generation by seven percent. There are more 22-year-olds than 53-year-olds on the planet right now and by 2018 it is estimated that the Millennials will be outspending the Baby Boomers by a large margin.

My stepdaughter is staying with us this summer, so I am getting a firsthand view of how these Millennials live. One thing I noticed is that they eat a lot and text a lot and ignore me with a passion. They’re also very in tune with all of the latest technology and social media and are extremely adept at rolling their eyes and saying things like “whatever” and “it is what it is.”
Some find them to be entitled and downright rude, but no matter what your opinion of them is, Millennials are a very significant segment of the market, and that’s why any consumer business should be at least remotely interested in what they’re up to. So, why should the collision industry care about this age group? Because they have money, they drive nice cars and just like everyone else—they get into accidents.

After years of studying Millennials, marketers and ad agencies all over the world know full well that the Millennial generation isn’t just a bunch of entitled kids with smartphones snapping selfies and chasing down the latest Groupon deal. In fact, businesses that aren’t pursuing Millennials will soon be missing out on a major consumer opportunity from a generation with an expected $2.45 trillion annual spending power by 2015. Body shops should be marketing to Millennials right now, because they’re the consumers of the world’s, both today and tomorrow.
The problem is that most owners of leading ad agencies and marketing/pr companies are in their 40s and 50s and they’re still trying to use techniques that worked back in the Madmen days. But, in order to cater to the Millennials, the powers-that-be have to re-invent themselves once again and devise ways to appeal to these 20-somethings. I recently took a two-day seminar about social media and most of it was dedicated to advertising and marketing to Millennials. The class was taught by a Millennial, so the information was both pertinent and useful.
More and more companies are recognizing the value of marketing to Millennials. By using these five tips to re-calibrate your marketing, public relations and advertising efforts, you’ll be able to tap into this increasingly powerful generation.

1.    Don’t Talk Down to Them
I was talking to a Millennial one day about a world without personal computers or the Internet and he looked at me like I had just emerged from a cave. As the most educated and savvy consumer group in the world, Millennials know what they want and are very skilled at finding it all by themselves. Now, collision repair is obviously not an impulse buy and the Millennials will treat it as an unnecessary expense, like Obamacare or parking tickets. But, in the end they don’t like to be corralled into doing something, so branding and advertising to this group may be more important than ever. They’re not the type that is going to just blindly pick one body shop from the list their insurance company shows them. They will want to do their due diligence and ask around, as well as referring to the shop’s web site, Yelp page and other assorted social media.

2.    Don’t Camouflage Your Message
“Be real,” is something the Millennials want to tell their parents and the new word I keep seeing everywhere is “transparency.” (Back in the old days, if you called somebody “transparent,” it meant they were not genuine, but now I guess it means exactly the opposite.) My stepdaughter has seen the media change and evolve and has been bombarded by literally millions of ads during her 20 years on the planet, so she can’t be fooled, cajoled or directed by advertising. The Millennials want the facts now and don’t want to sit through your long descriptions or veiled messages. Their time is limited and they’re juggling 1,500 things simultaneously and that’s why studies show that Millennials will value honesty and a straightforward approach when it comes to advertising.

3.    Strengthen Your Presence Online
Millennials are comfortable buying things online and that’s why brick and mortar businesses are moving toward the Internet more all the time. Unfortunately, you can’t get a fender bender repaired via the computer, but much of the groundwork can likely happen there. And that’s why it is important to have a good web site and some presence on Facebook and Instagram, for example, because these Millennials care about it and may use one or more to make their buying decisions.

4.    Millennials Communicate All the Time…with Each Other
This generation is more connected than any group in history, because they have so many ways to do it. They also rarely live alone and have numerous roommates in many cases, so word-of-mouth (or text or video or photo bomb) is more valuable to advertisers who understand this. The old days of creating a “buzz” is always beneficial, but now it’s more concentrated and it all moves so much more quickly. Come up with a shorter, more concise message, so that the Millennials can grasp it fast and disseminate it to their friends and associates seamlessly. It’s called “going viral” and if you can get achieve it, you’ll be a success—Millennially speaking.

5.    Quality is Still King (or Queen)
With today’s technology, bad service and poor quality can’t be swept under the carpet anymore. Anyone can find your competitors online within milliseconds and we all know that bad news travels faster than good news. Companies that take the time to provide convenient, Millennial-friendly services and quality products will be continually rewarded with positive recommendations, via the spoken word, smartphones or laptops. Either way, Millennials are demanding better service and higher quality while possessing the power to influence others, so listen to what they’re saying and start concentrating on this demographic more. Whether you’re enamored or not with their attitudes or behavior, they’re a huge market and you can’t deny it any longer.

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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