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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Marketing to the Millennial Generation

Meet Paul. He could be described as the “average” young man of today. At 25, he’s just finished college, has a new job, a large circle of friends he can instantly connect to using his mobile. And he’s never had a land line. Paul is part of the generation of Canadians surrounded by digital media and technology since birth. By the age of 12, he’s been comfortable using IM, text messaging his friends and sharing music files.

And then there’s Tiffany, 24, a senior editor at a local online city site. She begins each day in her Liberty Village loft with a diet of Gmail, Hotmail, work e-mail, (I haven't picked up a print newspaper in like, forever," she says) and blogs, in that order. She says it’s a necessary regimen for maintaining a functional dialogue both at work and in her circle of friends. Tiffany, who grew up in Markham and earned a fine-arts degree from the Ontario College of Art, says mobile phone text messaging is the default mode of communication for her set, surpassing e-mail, instant messaging or even talking on the phone itself.

Introducing... the Millennials.

In a recent USA Today article, children of Boomers and older Generation X’ers are being referred to as the ‘next great generation.’ Since arriving on planet earth, they’ve been told they’re smart, to be inclusive and empathetic, and focus on goal setting and achievement. According to another ready by Claire Raines, Connecting Generations, Millennials have been bombarded with a unique set of consistently positive messages that have created idealistic, confident and hopeful youth.

"I heard it on the (digital) Grapevine."

As this group is the most tech savvy in history, they tend to use altogether different channels for gathering their news and information. "What we're seeing is a whole different relationship with marketing and advertising which obviously has ripple effects through the entire economy," said Mr. McKenzie, who heads a Millennials Strategy Group at Frank Magid & Associates. For the millennials, he said, "reliance and trust in non-traditional sources - meaning everyday people, their friends, their networks, the network they've created around them - has a much greater influence on their behaviours than traditional advertising." It’s the peer-to-group phenomenon - a digital-age manifestation of the grapevine.

Consider these thought starters and innovations as ways to reach the interactive generation:

1. Learn the abbreviated language and slang of the IM and text user.

2. Social networking spaces like Facebook and LinkedIn will continue to gain share of mind and time and become new digital ‘jump off points’ versus the traditional portal home pages of today.

3. Corporate blogging will be seen as a primary way for PR folks to plant, shape and influence conversations. Success will be measured by the frequency with which a company’s key messages become part of a content conversation string or ‘online snowball.’

4. Bloggers and their opinions will become new “brands” and will be actively targeted and courted in the hopes of your key message coverage.

5. Marketing programs benefiting those less fortunate or helping causes will be widely accepted.

6. Commercial units will be produced in a variety of sizes, formats and lengths to fit the vastly increasing number of video formats and delivery systems available.

7. Look for continued innovation on mobile phone screens that improve texting, graphics and general usability.

8. Look for more advertising messages that are activated before and after application usage, like browsing or texting.

9. On the horizon - “Active” searching, whereby a mobile user takes a ‘photo’ of a billboard of say, new Gucci eyewear (actually the phone is reading a barcode located on the ad), and then be automatically connected to Gucci’s company website.

10. Currently being tested - contextual messaging, where a user is pinged with a message from Jodie Foster herself, asking you to check out her new movie, as you walk by the Movieplex.

Millennials are a fast moving, connected, and tech savvy bunch who trade information in a flash. Being invited into their circles and keeping them interested in what you have to say will no doubt require ample battery power and seriously good conversation skills.

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