Relationship Marketing to Millennials: Paving the Way for The Rest of Us

Our work with clients has us thinking a lot about Millennial relationship marketing lately. Of course, we’re looking at how to target them, market to them, and be relevant to them. But, what we also find really interesting about Millennials is the way they are changing the equation between brands and customers, demanding that brand relationships go beyond typical corporate marketing. Yes, Millennials want the transactional piece of the puzzle that most of us do, but they also want the personal, non-transactional piece as well. If we’re lucky, those demands will change the marketing landscape, which is good for all of us – whether we’re Millennials or not. We think it will.

A new value equation. Millennials are willing to engage and be loyal to brands, but require that brands give them something valuable in return. However, Millennials define value differently than traditional marketing does. Value and relationship marketing for Millennials goes beyond “quality for a good price” and floods of discounts to include “something I need, something that’s interesting or convenient, something that expresses who I am”. As Fast Company so aptly put it in a recent article, “The concept of shopping has shifted from owning stuff to buying into new ideas.” (Why Millennials Don’t Want to Buy Stuff). This new value equation moves beyond transactional value that dominates marketing today to include non-transactional value like access, exclusivity, service and innovation. We call this relationship value – and it must be obvious in relationship marketing to Millennials.

A new brand conversation. Along with their demands for a new value equation, Millennials also want brands and marketers to talk with them differently. There’s no patience for “one-size-fits-all” messages, slow, clunky process, shallow promises, dull or boring. They expect what we should all expect – a focus on individual needs, transparency, authenticity, and brands that get us excited. This is going to take more than younger visuals, more Millennial copy, and a Facebook page. It’s going to require a personal dialogue. To quote another Fast Company article, “You'll need more than Facebook to smash the wall between you and your customers.”

Where to Next? To engage Millennials, brands need a fresh approach that makes it personal, is truly social vs. in social channels, and builds customer relationships that are relevant to the individual customer. Millennials are more than a single, homogenous segment. Get to know your customers, how they use and value your product, how and where they talk about your brand, where your product fits into their lives. Then, align relationship marketing to Millenials with that conversation to meet that new value equation head on.

Millennials aren’t so different from the rest of us. Eric Anderson just posted a great piece called The 5 Myths of Millennials, which focuses on who Millennials are, but also how they aren’t so different from the rest of us. What Millennials want from brands – and what they demand from brands – is the same personal, relevant marketing we should all expect. We think these Millennial demands are a long time coming, not just for that generation, but for all consumers. We’re excited to see the changes they bring.