Have We Finally Reached The ‘Tipping Point’ on Millennial Marketing?

Is Millennial Marketing about to go mainstream?Has the world finally woken up to Millennials?

Judging by the media attention focused on Gen Y, it seems we may finally have arrived at the tipping point. On Feb 24 alone, there were  articles and segments that appeared around the country, sparked by the new Pew Report on Millennials:

Chicago Tribune: “Millennials Dubbed ‘Always Connected’ in Pew Report”

Washington Post: “Under 30 Americans: The Next New Dealers?”

Washington Post: “Story Lab: Quiz: How Millennial Are You?”

PBS News Hour: “Demographic Profile of a Generation”

Christian Science Monitor: “Great Recession Hits Millennials Hardest”

Huffington Post: “Our Generation: More Confident, Less Employed

A quick Google search returned 56 ‘related articles’ for a search on “Pew Millennials”.  I certainly welcome the attention on this remarkable demographic group, and I applaud Pew for its in depth coverage. But where are the marketing articles? The Pew data so far is mostly attended to by social scientists, political scientists, journalists and academics.

The marketing world, aside from youth-focused marketing firms, as yet are still fairly tone deaf about the coming shifts.

If you are interested in understanding how more mainstream marketers are reaching out successfully to Millennials, you have to dig a little deeper.  MobileYouth’s profile of Ten Brands that connect with Gen Y is a good start for profiles of Ford Fiesta, Monster Energy drink and others. But once you get beyond these high profile stories the cases get a little harder to come by. Here are three less publicized, inspiring exceptions:

Houlihan’s: (Fast Company)

“Last summer, it created its own social-networking site, HQ, an invite-only “brand community” of 10,500 “Houlifans” to serve as a virtual comment card. Customers appended that a-little-too-cute prefix to all things Houli-, and they’ve helped the formerly stodgy Irish pub rebrand itself as a contemporary suburban lounge-style hangout.”

StarkSilverCreek Web Publication: (PR Web)

All Things West Coast, the company’s flagship brand, is one of the fastest growing digital media properties. Readers value inspired and thoughtful coverage of the west coast including arts (film, stage), wine country, travel, and technology. Alexa Internet, Inc. ranks starksilvercreek.com 93,401 in the US and 285,000 globally. According to Quantcast, readers are affluent (28% earn $100K+), highly educated (67% college/grad school). Generation X and Y (Millennials) account for 68% of visitors.

Herbal Essence: (Business Week)

“The shampoo and conditioner bottles are curved so that they literally fit together on the shelf. The nesting shape not only helped Herbal Essences stand out from others on the shelf but also encouraged more young women to buy both products, driving up conditioner sales. To appeal to Millennials, the team also updated the language on the packaging. The ho-hum “dandruff” reference gave way to “no flaking away.” Names for different hair styles were changed to more youthful phrases such as “totally twisted” or “drama clean.” “We totally reframed the proposition,” says Lafley. ….soon after the shampoo was relaunched the brand was growing again, with sales growth rates in the high single digits.”

A lot is known now about how to build a more appealing brand that connects more directly with Millennials. It requires a different approach, because as anyone who reads this blog or the Pew Report knows, it’s a different kind of audience.  Getting results like these requires a more collaborative approach to research and a more engaging approach to marketing.

Marketers will be wise to begin now. The rewards for early movers in categories like banking, wine, leisure travel, retailing, and media will be great, both in immediate sales lifts (like Houlihans) as well as in better positioning for future consumers. Gen Y trends have a way of migrating up the generations.

Soon it will be more than just the wine industry that is experiencing ‘classic market disruption’, it will be most industries as this 75-million strong demographic recovers from the Recession, and gets about the business of creating homes and careers. Will your brand be ready?

Meanwhile, we are launching a new page on our MillennialMarketing.wikispaces.com wiki to aggregate successful Gen Y marketing case studies. Check it out and feel free to contribute your stories.