Why Reaching Millennials Is Essential for Your Brand

05/07/2014 02:28 pm ET | Updated Jul 07, 2014

Millennials are key for the success of your business, but to reap the benefits of a relationship with these new consumers, you have to know what makes them tick.

Also known as Gen Y, Millennials make up a great part of the consumer base. Going by the size of the Millennial population, this is the largest generation today, making them more and more influential as they continue to grow in age and purchasing power.

But beyond their size, Millennials are also captivating in how different -- and, at times, elusive -- they can be to others, including brand and company leaders.

Because of this lack of understanding, many companies resort to traditional marketing when reaching Millennials, or worse yet, they use a minimal understanding of the generation: "Digital natives," "selfie generation," and other similar terms. While some of these traits may hold true, there are several other key behaviors and attitudes held by Millennials that brands and business leaders must understand to successfully reach them and, ultimately, sell to them.

Understand their Values

Millennials are less likely to follow the traditional lifestyle stages, and, consequently, they place less value in saving money to purchase homes, buying cars or preparing for families. People often assume this means that many Millennials are reaching adulthood later in life, but they are actually reaching it in different ways.

Their consumption patterns reflect this, showing them cutting back on costs by living with parents longer or crowdsourcing goods, to then use their money on events and goods that reflect their other values: Sharing, uniqueness, discovery, creativity and passion.

For brands and business leaders, understanding these values is essential to reach Millennials. It's important to show how your product can fit into their lifestyle by helping them cut back on traditional costs, while maintaining their ideals.

Connectivity

Millennials are interested in innovative ways to connect, with each other and with the brands that they use. They don't only want to be spoken to, they demand to be spoken to, and they want to respond, whether it's on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Not only are they the word-of-mouth generation, but they are also spreading the word over more, newer and more organic channels.

For example, some brands have taken advantage of Snapchat, whether it's Taco Bell making a colorful announcement about their newest burrito, Grubhub offering special deals for Snapchat friends, or even brands that give behind-the-scenes access, from fashion designers to sports teams. Snapchat, much like Twitter, thrives thanks to the brevity that Millennials appreciate, but also brings these consumers into an "inside circle" that makes the experience feel more private and exclusive.

Brands that can connect with Millennials on these channels in unique, interesting ways will be more likely to stand out from the clutter and be heard and trusted by Millennials. These are brands that place meaning behind their products not only in terms of functionality, but also in messaging.

At Maaco, we have adapted this approach throughout our marketing efforts. For example, we recently ran a "Give Your Selfie a #MAACOVER" promotion that allowed consumers to share their selfies -- including their cars -- with us for a chance to win a free car makeover. Using social media has helped us not only reach our consumer base at a more personal, individual level, but also refreshed how they can reach our business and services.

Create Experiences

While Millennials aren't making traditional purchases like homes and cars, they are making significant purchases when it comes to other goods and services.

More often than not, they are turning to the goods and services that not only reach them on the right channels and with the right values, but also those that are impactful and innovative.

Companies that challenge the status quo -- like Dove and its Campaign for Real Beauty -- and create an impact through their products -- even when the products are not necessarily innovative, like body washes and soaps -- are more likely to be purchased by Millennials. And this impact is more likely to lead the Millennial consumer to share the brand's story, bringing more traffic to the company, both online and in stores.

Companies and brands that create an impact by simplifying how things get done, such as Square or Amazon Web Services, are also more likely to resonate with Millennials.

Millennials will continue to shape our consumer market. To stay relevant, companies must not only understand the generation's personal values and consumption patterns, but also accommodate their marketing and product approaches to fit these characteristics and successfully reach these new consumers.