According to Pew Research Center, a Millennial is an individual who was born in or after 1981. These are people who will currently be between 18 years to 36 years of age. According to the U.S. Census Bureau data 2015 estimates, the total number of Millennials in the United States is 75.4 million, constituting the largest consumer segmentthe next big group is the Baby Boomers, who are in the 51 to 69 age group and number around 74.9 million.
In the global context, if we were to include the most populated countries in Asia, Millennial numbers, in terms of percentage, will be much bigger than in the United States.
Marketing experts know that customer outreach is country and region specific. Marketing approaches are affected by customer education background, gender, economic status, culture and many other customer characteristics. The best results are obtained when marketing is targeted to a segment.
Effective marketing requires an in-depth understanding of customer behavior and preference. A survey on Millennial preferences and behavior, conducted by Deloitte, provided some generic insights. The findings, released in 2017, showed 76 percent of Millennials have a generally positive view of business and often view business to be socially responsive.
According to the survey, Millennials reported feeling accountable toward their workplace and being generally quite aware of issues affecting the world at large. They said they were more likely to contribute to good causes, but their views on multinational corporations are not positive.
Some of these findings can also be validated anecdotally. Millennials are quite active participants in global environment, climate change and anti-Wall Street movements, and they contribute actively to social causes.
Millennials are also comfortable with technology and form the largest group of innovators. Most startup founders are Millennials. This group is also comfortable with and will often unhesitatingly engage with brands. They actively engage at corporate and business events in which public participation is sought.
A marketing strategy and approach directed toward the Millennials market should, therefore, leverage technology tools and be participative in nature. Social media and technology tools can be effectively deployed to engage with Millennials..
Facebook leads the social media pack with 1.79 billion monthly active users, followed by the Tencent-owned Chinese platform Wechat, which has over 700 million monthly active users. Other popular social media sites include Instagram (500 million), Twitter (317million), Google Plus (300 million) and Snapchat (150 million monthly).
A lot of innovation is taking place to leverage this vast reach of social media. Micro-influencer marketing is one such emerging trend. Individuals are being leveraged to market a brand. Individuals are micro-influencers with an individual circle of friends, acquaintances and supporters. A view or comment on a product, service or event posted on social media often evokes a response among a circle of friends. A comment or endorsement on a product is often emulated or responded to by the peer group. Experience sharing within this group affects behavior and attitude towards a product. The influence that an individual exerts in a peer base is called “social currency."
There are a number of marketing innovations that target micro-influencers. The startup FamousEnuf (famousenuf.com) intermediates between brands and consumers. It puts out a campaign idea request over Facebook around a product. Users interested in the product submit campaign ideas. The selected idea is then promoted in the friend circle of the selected Facebook friend.
Micro-influencer identification and targeting is assisted by artificial intelligence-based machine learning tools.
In this micro-influencer marketing innovation, no money changes hands. The reward to the Facebook campaigner is in the form of free product. Other micro-influencer marketing groups offer financial rewards to individuals who consent to campaign for a product amongst their circle of friends. However, promotion will be more credible and effective if no money changes hands.
Micro-influencer marketing is becoming quite popular among brands targeting Millennials. In the case of FamousEnuf, this form of marketing has resulted in good dividends for its client brands.
This form of marketing is probably ideal for the natural products industry. The industry is largely composed of small and medium-sized units. They are often cash strapped. They do not have the marketing dollars to undertake expensive marketing and advertisement campaigns. The products on offer are environment friendly, often organic and connected to nature. Millennials are more likely to take an interest in nature and related products and services.
Currently, though, most natural product companies are adopting traditional marketing techniques to sell their products, even though Millennials can be a core market segment for the industry. Social media is extensively used by the natural product industry to promote their products, but the approach is focused on obtaining likes for a product page, writing a blog on the product and/or using search engine optimization (SEO) to increase general visibility on a site. These approaches don’t invite participation and are unlikely to find resonance with Millennials. This approach to target Millennials needs to change, and micro-influencer marketing is a compelling and innovative option.
Sudhir Ahluwalia is a business consultant. He has been management consulting head of Tata Consultancy Services, an IT outsourcing company in Asia, business advisor to multiple companies, columnist and author of upcoming book on herb, “Holy Herbs." He has been a member of the Indian Forest Service.