Marketing to Millennials: How iSign Can Help You Reach a Broad Group of Individuals

May 15, 2014

Millennials are proving to be a challenging demographic to market to for a several reasons outlined in a recent Pew Research Center study. With their mobile devices never far from reach, today's 18-33 year olds have their attention spread extremely thin. iSign believes that this is an advantage for marketers if ads are placed strategically and hyper-locally. Photo credit: Craig Warga/Bloomberg

My father once told me it’s impossible to manage what you don’t understand. As a sales manager with three decades of experience behind him, he's seen his share of changing consumer preferences. In my generation, the Millennials, marketers today are faced with a seemingly impossible task: chasing an often inscrutable and ever-elusive target audience.

“We live in a culture that is defined by not having a ‘normal’ niche and, because of this, targeted marketing is becoming increasingly difficult —especially in regard to my generation,” says Sean Cooley, a Tallahassee-based Millennial.

I can attest to the fact that my generation’s needs, desires, and philosophies have diverged sharply from those of our parents when they were twenty-somethings. At 25, my parents already had their first mortgage, three years of marriage in the books, and a kid on the way.

At 25, I am single and share a two-bedroom apartment with a friend. Like many of my peers, I spent the first two years out of college working jobs that provided a bigger boost to my resume than my bank account.

A new study by the Pew Reseach Center puts some numbers behind those sentiments. Respondents between the ages of 18 to 33 are less likely to adhere to specific political or religious affiliations than older Americans.

Half of Millennials consider themselves politically independent, versus less than 40% of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, according to the study. Nearly 30% of the younger generation is not affiliated with any religion. That compares with 21% of Gen Xers, who are between 34 and 49 years old, and 16% of Boomers, aged 50 to 68.

Translation: Finding an effective way to sell a large group of us on a single concept is more challenging than ever before.

“Marketers are finding it very difficult to pin them down,” P.K. Kannan, professor of marketing science at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, told Free Enterprise. Marketers and brand managers struggle to understand “what they really want.”

“Thirty years ago you came out of college and you had a job waiting for you, you got married, you got a house and you had kids,” says Kannan. That path is no longer an assumed game plan for the current crop of 18 to 33 year olds, making it tricky to project what their needs and interests would be.

Times have changed, resulting in a hulking, youthful demographic wielding a coveted buying power that is hidden behind a fog of free-floating ideals and priorities. Yet while we’re more detached from institutions such as religion and party, we’re also increasingly linked to our own personalized networks of friends and colleagues through social media, as the Pew study shows.

My generation also grew up with exposure to more media channels and advertising than our predecessors. Whether it be via traditional media such as billboards and TV commercials, or the screen on one of our many devices, we are constantly being asked to buy, share or like something.

For the sake of our sanity, we filter rather than retain.

So how do businesses with limited ad dollars attract audiences that can’t be won over in broad, general strokes? How do you stir significant demand for a product in a group that is comprised of independent thinkers?

“Millennials are, generally speaking, growing up to be antisocial, they read and get everything from their mobile devices,” said Alex Romanov, founder of iSign Media Corp. Working with IBM’s research team, iSign concluded that the majority of young people will respond to advertising that promotes something that is easily accessible at the moment they view it.

iSign’s clients send out incentivized ads to all mobile devices within a predetermined radius of the merchant itself, which can then be opened and read much like a text message. The goal is to entice customers at a time when minimal effort needs to be expended and convenience matches the value.

The strategy is proving to be effective, and it’s easy to see why. Even when presented with a product that sparks my interest, it often comes at a time when purchasing is not a priority. This increases the likelihood that it will blend in with the white noise.

Maybe that new brand of sneakers has sparked my interest, but I’m not about to head out and pickup a pair when I see them advertised on late night television

However, should my local sporting goods store buzz my phone the next morning while I’m two blocks away on my walk to work, there’s a much better chance that I will act on that impulse to stop in.

We Millennials may seem hard to pin down by marketers because we tend to lack the affiliations of earlier generations, but one thing we tend to have in common is we’re constantly connected. We’re so bombarded by ads across different media platforms that we increasingly demand what we want, when we want it.

As my father suggested, it won’t be easy for marketers to effectively engage with Millennials. Still, if companies are able to bring their message into our comfort zone at a time when we are most inclined to act, they just may reach us after all.

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