A demographic with $1.3 trillion in buying power is worth your attention, but for many businesses, reaching the Millennial generation seems like more trouble than it’s worth. Their reaction to advertising is notoriously difficult to gauge, and popular campaigns designed to reach them can quickly turn into mocked ideas (ehrm…QR codes).

Millennials are normally described as 18 to 33 year olds. They are an evolving demographic that is shaping marketing’s future. They are so important to the economy, the White House drafted a document explaining who they are and their impact on the nations financial health. But how do you market to a group that eschews traditional advertising methods?

Fortunately, we’ve had the benefit of learning from experience. Also, 75 percent of our workforce are Millennials. Here are a few helpful tips to remember when marketing to this elusive generation.

Digital Natives – Most Millennials cannot remember a time before the Internet. Even the ones who can remember were using email in high school. The Internet is a resource they have always had for entertainment, information, and social networking. Smartphones and tablets make that connection portable, and thus the flow of entertainment, information, and social networking never stops. The takeaway here is that a business must be mobile-friendly and focused on its Internet presence. Not having a strong social media strategy and a mobile-friendly site is the equivalent of setting up shop in a dangerous, dark alleyway, nobody has ever heard of; no one can find you, and even if they could, no one wants to visit your store. Ironically, thanks to the Internet, if you set up business in that same alleyway with an excellent e-commerce strategy, your business could thrive.

Trust Issues – Research suggests that Millennials are more likely to buy something based on a friend’s opinion than an advertisement (read this article by BCG Perspective, “How Millennials are Changing the Face of Marketing Forever,” for support). Millennials also tend to make purchases based on the feeling that they are discovering something. Social media outlets like Pinterest perpetuate a culture of “Fausumerism” (shopping for goods via the Internet without purchasing anything), coupled with the distrust of traditional advertising. Businesses should present their products in an organic, discoverable way. Blogs and social media are perfect for this type of content marketing. Around our office, consumer goods ranging from clothing to restaurants to vacations have been discovered via Instagram and Pinterest, not print or radio. The bottom line for Millennial marketing is a strong content marketing strategy. Businesses need to build relationships with social media influencers, and invest in social media-driven campaigns, digital marketing, and search engine marketing. SEM can get products in front of Internet-savvy Millennials. We suggest hiring a professional. We may know a few.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – In the past, advertisers were able to rely heavily on selling to certain “life stages.” People who were buying houses fell into a certain age range; people who were buying high-end watches fell into another. Life stage advertising was easy because people in those life stages looked a certain way and liked certain types of things. They were predictable. Millennials entered adulthood during the recession, and their life stages look totally different to previous generations. Most Millennials will not be buying a house until well into their 30s (if ever). The high-end watch normally given as a retirement gift could be purchased as a 25th birthday present, or the money that might have been used as a down payment on a house is now used to travel around Europe. They are far more interested in curating an experience than following in their parents’ footsteps. So, instead of focusing on life stages, focus on social groups and experiences. Ad concepts that emphasize the experience of a product will reach this audience in a more impactful way. Think more, “car insurance makes you feel free,” and less “buy car insurance because you are now old enough to afford the best coverage.”

Have you found your business is struggling to reach Millennials? Tell us what has worked (and what hasn’t) at hello@wingardcreative.com.