Food for Thought: Why Millennials Matter

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The word “Millennial” is like honey to the bears of big business. The modern politician campaigns for their vote, marketers spend billions of dollars each year trying to create the ideal advertisement that appeals to them, and they dominate the technological landscape; both in production and consumption.

Regardless of the product, millennials are seen as the impetus of the marketplace, having the biggest impact on your business regardless of the industry or sector you’re in. Looking at it from a numbers standpoint, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation charts the number of millennials in the world at around 80 million today. This makes them the largest cohort size in history and, in turn, makes them the largest demographic of consumers.

They are the biggest percentage of followers of trendsetters on social media, they are the biggest percentage of consumers buying one brand over the other. This means they are the ultimate decision makers of what is “in”.

As the trendsetters of our modern era, it is necessary for these gregarious individuals to hear and be captivated by our message. Where will we most likely find them? The internet, of course. In 2015 Statista found that the millennials had the highest percentage of internet users out of any other cohort at 96% participation. This gives marketers the perfect opportunity to utilize a personalized, omnichannel approach.

We all know that personalized marketing is infinitely more effective now that we have a compendium of information about any given individual. Just as you can tell a lot about a woman based on the contents of her purse, you can tell even more about a person by the contents of their browsing history. Before you know it, up through the archives of internet history a heavily tailored and personalized marketing message can be formed. With it we know exactly where and how to reach each individual node on the network of our audience.

At some level this may sound like a dream come true, however it is a rather reductive way to look at the real situation at hand. In order to reach consumers in such a personalized way, we have to almost exploit the mined data of these individuals provided usually by third-party providers. While we see this as the harmless means to an end, almost second nature now, the average consumer knows this is taking place and is not so enthusiastic to buy in.

More often than not, millennials see the use of their information for the purposes of targeted advertising to seen as an irreverent approach towards them. After the hype surrounding Edward Snowden and the NSA in 2013, the issue of digital privacy was pushed to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Can the government hack into my smart phone and read my texts? Can they activate my webcam and watch me? On a personal note, I, at one time, looked at the webcam on my laptop just enough to put myself on edge and promptly shielded my privacy with a post-it.

Now these are extreme examples, and I recognize the likelihood that someone, somewhere, was actually watching me through that lense. However the main idea remains the same: people are uncomfortable with others having access to their data and/or information. With millennials being the luminaries of technology and the internet, this poses a problem.

A 2015 study conducted by intercede showed, despite popular belief, millennials overwhelmingly hold concern for their online privacy with fewer than 5% believing their data is actually secure. More alarmingly, 54% claim failure of businesses to implement better online security will result in public distrust of goods and services.

This is where marketers come in – is there a way for us to establish trust with the consumer while maintaining the use of personalized marketing techniques? The lifeblood of these individuals is their technology and, in turn, the privacy it can provide.

The best way to win the hearts of millennials, it seems, is through free content from the company’s website. More specifically, free content relevant to them which has worked for dozens of companies in the past few years. However, privacy concerns have just been brought back up on the table with the U.S. government requesting Apple build a “back door” to their iPhone’s encryption.

Is there an ultimate solution? I believe it’s safe to say the utilization of personalized marketing will continue to grow as information becomes more vast, in-depth, and readily accessible. In tandem, the concern for privacy of information will grow as well. Have you tried a different approach which yielded positive results? Let us know in the comments below.

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I'm an Ogilvy wannabe at The University of Akron studying Marketing Management and Integrated Marketing Communications. If I'm not at the parks, you can find me at your local library.

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