Millennials entered the workforce during a time of high financial insecurity, triggering long-term risk of economic instability, their shift towards short-term financial thinking and a “Live Now” mentality that focuses on living in the moment and prioritizing quality of life over money. It has opened the door for marketers to become trusted partners by helping this group satisfy their short-term goals, so there is an established relationship by the time Millennials start thinking about their future.
Young workers have faced depressed starting salaries, are drowning in high student debt — more than half of 18- to 32-year-olds have it — and are risk-averse to investing their money. The 2014 Wells Fargo Millennial Study reported 56% of millennials are living paycheck-to-paycheck, 5 in 10 are not saving for retirement and 77% state they cannot save because they have more immediate priorities, primarily paying day-to-day bills. This economic situation has constrained them to think for the immediate future, rather than long-term, when it comes to their spending habits.
Here’s how marketers can tap into the “Live Now” mindset as they plan in 2016:
Millennials increasingly value experience over possessions. More than three in four Millennials opt to spend money on a desirable experience or event over purchasing a material good, according to Eventbrite. Unlike possessions, experiences do not lose value and can only be lived in the present, making them ideal for this generation. Millennials value the intangible more than material goods because it offers them real, in-the-moment memories.
Marketers can connect with Millennial consumers by giving them experiences beyond just their products or services, to showcase how the brand enhances their lives. For example, Red Bull doesn’t just market its energy drinks. Instead, the brand invites its audience to be active, performance-focused, alert and adventurous, the qualities that Red Bull stands for, by shaping its campaigns around high-end, exciting sport experiences.
It is harder to earn long-term loyalty. The recession also created skepticism of big business, resulting in a lack of trust among a younger generation of consumers. Millennials can be very loyal to brands, but this is earned, not given. There is little hesitation when it comes to moving on to the next best thing, especially when there is a change in financial situation, which is the most cited reason for switching brands.
Despite being budget-conscious, this group cares about a brand’s intentions more than cost. To build trust, marketers should approach Millennials as knowledgeable partners with their best interests at heart. When they see brands that care about empowering them, price tags become secondary. Marketers should focus on how their product or service aims to improve Millennials’ future selves: whether by saving time, solving real issues they’re currently grappling with, or generally doing good in the world. Toms, one of Millennials’ top three favorite brands according to Ypulse, has won over this audience through its commitment to providing affordable, quality products and giving back to poor communities.
Solve the present to pave way for the future. Thinking about the long-term can be difficult for a generation that is focused on the present. Millennials are notorious for spending more than they earn: one in four Millennials has more debt than savings, according to Bankrate.com. When addressing the long term, it is important to relate to specific challenges that Millennials are facing in the present — their financial stresses and lack of future planning being the most prominent — and how your brand can help. How will your brand benefit them now and later, rather than just later in life?
Online bank Simple, for example, reinvented banking for Millennials by getting rid of all common banking fees, creating a mobile-first platform, ramping up customer service, and offering automatic saving and budgeting tools to help people manage their spending. Another innovative example is the Future Self Mirror, a product prototype project that collects fitness, health and diet trackers to predict what the consumer will look like in the coming months or years.
Growing up at a time of financial insecurity has disrupted Millennials’ approach to finance and spending, making them highly focused on the “Live Now” mentality, averse to long-term commitments, and partial to experience-related purchases. By addressing these short-term driven tendencies, marketers have the opportunity to become trusted partners and guide this generation into the future.