As the first generation to grow up in the internet age, millennials present a new challenge to content marketers. Companies must find new ways to reach this tech-savvy, easily distracted, and increasingly influential demographic.

Millennial Angst?

As the internet democratizes information, business owners are asking a multimillion dollar question — how can we not only grab the attention, but the loyalty of millennial consumers? Forbes contributor Micah Solomon asserted on the eve of 2015 that this would be the year of the millennial customer, insisting that this coveted demographic interacts with responsive brands, and reacts positively to an authentic customer experience.

But being one of these favored brands is easier said than done. The BBC found that 70% of millennials considered their attention spans too short, and acknowledged that they struggled to focus. Meanwhile, a study published by Computers in Human Behavior found that among the general population, younger audiences multitasked more than those who are middle aged and maturing.

For instance, the American Marketing Association observed that 92% of millennials use a smartphone or tablet while watching television. The lesson here appears to be that it’s difficult to keep the eyes of these young consumers glued to anything.

Furthermore, tech usage patterns are evolving with this generation. Experian reports that millennials now spend much more time with digital media than traditional media. The average college student, for example, owns seven tech devices, according to MarketingCharts. And this trend appears to only be intensifying — 70% of eight year-olds in 2015 use a mobile device to access media, compared to just 38% in 2011.

Marketing to the Choir

Millennials are aware of the classic marketing gimmicks being unleashed on their generation — like product placement and subliminal messaging. A joint study by Yahoo and Tumblr found that millennials are turned off by these sales tactics, primarily pioneered by advertising agencies in a foregone era.

Instead, the study shows four categorical, empirically-supported expectations of the millennial customer — a desire to immerse in content, a desire to satisfy fandom, a desire to be “in the know,” and a desire for resources to succeed.

Recent studies have shown all these desires are satisfied through customer engagement campaigns targeted at the demographic. Adroit Digital found one of the top two reasons American millennials give when choosing a new brand is good word of mouth from friends in the same age group. On the other hand, the least compelling criteria was brand exposure through traditional advertising, followed by “instilled trust” in an established brand.

This finding is corroborated by a Crowd DNA study published by Facebook, showing that 72% of American teens and young adults expect brand content to be entertaining. Emerging markets such as India and Brazil have an even higher expectation of entertaining brand content than Americans.

Take a Byte Out of the Millennial Market Share

A group of millennials crowd around a smartphone in order to take a selfie.

Merlijn Hoek/flickr

 

Millennials are digital natives, and brands need to be present wherever their potential customers are spending their time. A Gallup poll of adults aged 18 to 29 found that smartphone ownership is nearly universal, along with home access to wireless internet.

But it is not enough to just be there. CrowdTap research reveals that millennials consume upwards of 18 hours of media per day, which means your product or service offering is a drop in an ocean of content. It’s therefore essential to create value and impact through creative and dynamic content.

In the words of Dawn Papandrea at Newscred, “millennials expect you to understand their needs, their preferences, and their passions. It’s all about them — they are a generation of selfie-takers, after all.”

Alex Castellarnau at Dropbox echoes this sentiment. “Millennials are a generation that wants to co-create the product, the brand, with you,” she said. “Companies that understand this and figure out ways to engage in this co-creation relationship with millennials will have an edge.” In an age of distraction, content marketers must give millennials a good reason not to swipe away.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer B2C content marketing services to help your business reach the audiences that matter with smart, useful content that delivers the right message at the right time. Learn more about B2C content marketing here.

(Main image credit: Elizabeth Hahn/flickr)

Author Ryan Mach

As his title suggests, Ryan is L&T’s top creative mind and voice, supervising editorial quality and the on-boarding of new content experts and brand journalists. He’s also responsible for the production of high-profile content initiatives, ranging from industry white papers to expert commentaries for top digital publications like Inc and TechCrunch. Also a graduate of Kenyon College, Ryan previously served on the editorial board of the political magazine, the Kenyon Observer, and co-founded the Fabulist, an undergraduate literary publication.

More posts by Ryan Mach