Millennials & Generation Z Rule the Focus of Social Marketing (But Should They?)

Even if they're not always buying your products, Millennials' habits can be a harbinger of things to come.

Millennials, that sought-after group comprising people 18-to-34 (depending on your interpretation), are the main focus of many social marketers.

However, these marketers are trying to cajole reactions out of a generation that doesn’t quite have as much spending power yet.

So why should we pay any attention to Millennials?

Even if they’re not always buying your products, Millennials’ habits can be a harbinger of things to come, when looking at mobile usage and how they prefer to be engaged with. Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst for Adobe Digital Index, offered some big predictions at the recent Adobe Summit in Las Vegas for the future of marketing—largely shaped by Millennials and Generation Z.

Gaffney talked with SocialTimes about why younger people are so influential within social marketing circles, even if they don’t have the money to burn. And yes, brands are really spending big bucks to target Millennials. Gaffney mentioned during a session at Adobe Summit that 25 percent of Heineken’s ad budget is used on courting the 21-to-34 group. Gaffney talked about why Millennials matter now:

Of course, some brands are targeting those age ranges and it matters to them right now. But it matters to all brands in 5 to 10 years.

For instance, content marketers need to know that Millennials and Gen Z aren’t the type of people to wait for a structured content plan. They’d rather become content creators themselves to fill in the gap, and things like these make younger users a key demographic to monitor:

It’s really hard for marketers and advertisers to really wrap their heads around, because we live in such a push-out kind of mentality. We go into a room and try to figure out exactly how to motivate someone to do something that we’re interested in and then put it into a commercial and push it out. But the Millennials, because of how they are, they see a commercial one time. By the second time they’ve seen it, that’s too much frequency. That’s how they are with their content. They want new, new, new, new, new.

As advertisers, especially in television, it’s very hard to keep creating new content; it’s very expensive. What ideas do you have to do that? That’s why using social media and other approaches to reach Millennials is easier.

In a recent study, 84 percent of Millennials like personalized ads, but only 25 percent said that today’s personalized ads are as tailored to them as they need to be. Additionally, 26 percent of Millennials polled by Adobe show that advertisers have gotten worse in the past two years at showing relevant ads. Only 28 percent of Millennials polled said that they get adequate value from brands in exchange for the amount of data they share about themselves.

Marketers should key in to the way the next generation is receptive to marketing. Adobe data shows that 70 percent of Millennials polled in a recent study watch videos when shopping online and 85 percent find demo videos useful, but 2/3 of Millennials polled will stop if the video is too promotional.

Another big trend coming up is the rise of voice automation and the elimination of manual input on phones. Gaffney shared that interest is very high in products such as Facebook M, and Amazon’s Echo proves that there’s a huge market for voice-command technology. Why? Gaffney notes that the next generation doesn’t have much patience for technology, and they will seek out the most time-efficient path:

They’re more likely to not type out their texts, but to use voice. And they don’t seem concerned with whether the voice gets the spelling right. … Millennials don’t have a lot of patience for technology failure. They will find a different path really quickly.

Adobe data shows that 36 percent of Millennials said they’ve used a digital assistant in the past 30 days and 43 percent of Millennials use digital assistants several times per week.

The big thing Millennials and Generation Z want is control. Adobe data shows that Gen Z actually prefers watching video on a phone (not a big-screen) because it feels like a more interactive experience that they command.

Another big takeaway for advertisers? Millennials and Generation Z are already sick of your awareness ads. Gaffney talked about how Millennials can embrace advertising, but only if it’s truly relevant to them and what they’re looking for.

Irrelevant advertising is a no-go for younger people, who have grown up in an advertising-saturated society and can spot which ads make the most sense for them—and which ones are easily ignored. However, Gaffney noted that this isn’t categorical to Millenials, but rather a reflection on advertising consumption today.

The problem with the eyewash of advertising is when it’s irrelevant. Then we start to learn that there isn’t anything there for us, so we skip over it. … If we see advertising that is irrelevant, we’re going to stop paying attention to it. I don’t think that’s necessarily symptomatic of Millennials, that’s just the way our brains work. We start to not pay attention to erroneous information.

Readers: Do you feel the marketing attention placed on Millennials is misplaced or appropriate?