After perfecting your skills with the baby boomers and knowing how to tap the nail on the head when it comes to generation X, the millennials may leave you stumped. There have been many headlines screaming controversies such as Real Truth magazine asking ‘If they know so much, how do they understand so little?’,  they have been called the selfie generation, the me-spoke seekers, the digital natives, and so much more. Yet the question remains are they really just a misunderstood generation? And if so shouldn’t we be trying to get to know them better because after all they are our future.

News Cred recently shone a light on the millennials with their evocative survey marked millennial mind. It’s easy to overlook this generation, to wait for them to join the ranks of their baby boomer peers, and to write off their habits as fads, yet the truth is they are going to be leading our workplace by up to 50% and they are going to be responsible for over $1.4 trillion in spending power in the next five years. Not to mention every month in the US alone, there are 82 million millennials eating content for breakfast. These numbers are pure proof that this is not a generation to be overlooked and those who want to get ahead in marketing best start unraveling the mystery of these infamous millennials.

Know where they are coming from

If you want to understand the millennials then the first thing you need to do is take a good hard look and get to grips with their social status. In a way, it must be tricky to be raised in a time when your peers are forever telling you ‘you can be anything you want’. In front of your eyes, there are endless roads, paths, and products. You have a million different choices when it comes to careers, sneakers, coffee shops, smartphones, and so much more. Not only do you have all this choice but you have also been born into a time when the recession has slammed the door in your face, you are doomed to have less than your parents, you aren’t interested in frittering away hours on low paid jobs to start a family and have a home. You want to enjoy your time, you want to eat like a king, stomp across the globe, connect with new people, and have the world at your fingertips. And who can blame you; it’s what they promised you after all. It’s no wonder millennials are misunderstood, so when they see a brand that seems to get their predicament and offers tailored content and solutions that fit them like a glove, perhaps their infinite choices will suddenly have a finite end – and that full stop could be your brand.

Know the decade that shaped them

The chief content writer of Vice put it right when he declared “In the decade of the 2000s, it was the march of two opposing forces – a crisis of information and the liberation of Information”. For the millennials the world really is at their fingertips, there are no hiding secrets from them. Whilst in one hand they may be taking endless Instagram pictures and tweeting about their lunch, with the other hand they are reading about the conflict in Palestine, debating the upcoming general election, and sharing political opinions with their friends. Sadly this is also a generation that has lost touch with the idea of trust, now the freedom of information is out there and available, they no longer turn to politicians, TV, mass media and even brands for confirmation of what’s right and wrong. As a brand, you need to earn their trust. You need to also understand that these people are not completely conceited consumers, they care about the world and if they can find a way of blending buying with giving back, they will probably choose that route.

Know their mediums

Remember the good old days of MSN messenger and MySpace? No, odds are millennials won’t either. This is a generation that was born tweeting, that updated their Facebook status as soon as they mastered hand-eye coordination, and that knew how to swipe a touch screen before they could say their ABC. If you want to reach out across the chasm to these potential consumers then you need to understand their virtual world. 65% of millennials use Facebook to search for content that amount is breathtaking and if you are not already on social media then you need to hop aboard before the ship sails into the sunset without you. Knowing how they interact on social media is another educated factor that will give you the edge. Millennials like content that is funny, that is informative, that doesn’t patronize, or assume. They also want to put their best foot forward in life and they actively choose to share things that they feel represent their best selves. In the modern world success is not only measured in dollars, it’s measured in the richness of experience and this is what they will share when it comes to social media.

Know not to pull the wool over their eyes

Forbes left one final word of advice when it came to their Sneakernomics article, they said when dealing with millennials to engage, don’t market. This is the bottom line, this a generation that won’t deal well with having the wool pulled over their eyes, they have limitless choices remember, and if they don’t lie the cut of your jib then they will simply turn elsewhere with a shrug of the shoulders. This is also a generation that doesn’t succumb to the slavery of brand loyalty, meaning now more than ever it’s imperative to gain respect. This is not a generation that is going to sit prettily and wait for the world to come to them, they are going to stand up and find what works for them exclusively, regardless of whether it’s considered the right thing to do or not. To gain respect you need to interact, communicate, offer insight and value, you need to go local, hone down your tone to fit your exact niche, and you need to give them what they want. This is a knowledge-based economy meaning that if a brand is direct, clever, and cares about the world then they are going to win out over a brand that is pretending to be chic and pretending to care.

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