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Monday, October 20, 2014

Missy Henriksen

director of the Professional Pest Mangement Alliance.


[PPMA Pulse] Reaching a New Generation — Marketing to Millennials

PPMA Pulse

September 23, 2014

In the marketing world, understanding your target audience is crucial to staying ahead of the curve. One group that has entered the spotlight due to their unique buying habits and way of thinking is the Millennial generation.

Contrary to popular belief, this generation isn’t just a bunch of young adults who play hours of Candy Crush and take hundreds of selfies. Millennials are currently the largest generation with arguably the most purchasing power. They are everyone from 19-year-old college freshmen to 34-year-old business professionals with mortgages and kids. In fact, the majority of the work force will be made up of Millennials by 2015. Composed of 75 million people and more than $1.68 trillion in purchasing power, marketers cannot and should not ignore this group.

However, marketing to Millennials poses a new set of challenges as this group is faced with many obstacles like debt from student loans and an unfavorable job market. More so, studies have shown that Millennials were raised with a different set of values than previous generations, which also gives them a different outlook on their spending habits. They are also one of the most informed generations, having grown up with the Internet and the ability to access news and reviews instantly. This means that marketers cannot rely on traditional tactics to reach this unique audience. Instead, both small and large businesses need to be innovative, open and responsible in order to reach this new generation.

Accept Shifting Values.

According to a CEB Iconoculture report (, Millennials rank personal values such as happiness and discovery higher than collective values such as integrity and duty. Collective values are consistently ranked as more important by older generations. Millennials are more concerned about their individual growth and having life experiences. Remember the rise of #YOLO?

This way of thinking has a big effect on how Millennials view brands and advertising strategies. The report also notes that this generational shift in values is seen across the entire age spectrum of Millennials, suggesting that they are grounded beliefs and not just a passing phase.

A Barkley survey ( revealed Millennials also are more drawn to brands marketing themselves as being adventurous and socially responsible. For example, they want to know how aligning with your firm will add something to or benefit their lives.

Understand Their View.

Millennials are the children of the dot-com bubble, the housing bubble and the 2008 recession. They are more cynical of brands, and generally untrusting of how these brands market to audiences. Their skepticism leads them to be less brand loyal than previous generations, easily switching from brand to brand to save money. However, they will also pay more if a portion of their money is going to charity.

They look for quality services at reasonable prices, and they make purchases based on what products will be useful in their lives. They also spend significantly more money on life experiences, like traveling, over material possessions.

Their choices on living situations are also based on saving money. More Millennials live at home or rent with roommates to offset costs. The economic effects of that fact may not be realized for years down the road, but fewer people entering the housing market could mean a decline in customers for residential services such as pest control and landscaping.

This is a much different picture of a young consumer than 20 years ago. They are interested in what is new and different, but they will also do extensive research to verify the quality and usefulness of a product before purchasing.

An Online Presence.

So much shopping and comparing of services happens online that not having an online presence can be detrimental. However, Millennials are more likely than other generations to jump back and forth from online to brick-and-mortar stores when shopping. Typically, they’ll search for goods or services online, read reviews, visit a store and then try to find the cheapest price online.

Ultimately, having a simple website with services readily available will attract Millennials. Also, the online space gives companies the opportunity to open a dialogue. This is a good way to stay current and give customers the opportunity to review services and provide feedback. They are more likely to feel invested in the company if given a space to socialize.

Part of the Conversation.

With the rise of social media and the ease of communication via mobile devices, Millennials share, comment and spread news faster than ever before. They will discuss and review new products, and they readily give and receive advice from friends and family about purchases, whether a recommendation for a good product or a warning about bad service. There is an ongoing conversation about how to get the best deal on the best new thing.

Companies need to enter the conversation and talk about what is important to the consumer in order to stay relevant. Creating content that becomes viral is the highest level of perceived success, but that can fail quickly if you are forcing an agenda that is not relevant or being discussed.

Be Creative and Useful.

Each day, the average person is inundated with thousands of advertisements while commuting to work, searching the Internet, watching television or even using apps on their smart phones. Creativity is the key to standing out and usefulness is the key to a return on investment.

Companies should be mindful of where they are placing content. Millennials consume most news from Internet sources and from a wide variety of sources. They are less likely to sit down to read a physical newspaper or watch the evening news each day.

On the Internet, companies can feel like a small fish in a big pond, trying to keep up with the fast-paced cycle of pop culture, viral content and breaking news. Cheap laughs will not work in the long run. Millennials are more inclined to notice companies that take risks and do something different. But this tactic will only convert to spending when it also demonstrates how a product will be useful. Smart content is unique while accurately conveying the purpose of the product or service.

Emphasize Quality.

Now, possibly more than ever, the quality of goods and services matters. Word of mouth rules for Millennials, whether online or in person. Sixty-one percent of Millennials rate goods and services online and 68 percent do not make a major decision without discussing it with other people ( Even strangers’ online reviews have influence over their buying power.

Millennials are very likely to talk about good service to their friends and family and just as likely to warn against brands they have had bad interactions with. This system of giving and receiving advice contributes to their lack of brand loyalty. Loyalties are casual and always shifting when something cheaper or more highly recommended comes along.

Maintaining high-quality products and demonstrating an interest in customer service is likely to keep the Millennials you already have as customers as well as attract more.

Think Beyond Profits.

Profits are important in any business, but Millennials do not want to know that profit is one of your primary concerns. Corporate social responsibility has been gaining traction and is important to this generation. Fifty-eight percent of Millennials are willing to pay more for a product or service to support a good cause, and 37 percent will purchase a product associated with a cause they support.

A good example of a brand seeing success from emphasizing its social responsibility initiative is Chipotle. Their commitment to sustainable farming piques the interest of Millennials concerned about the environment while underscoring the quality of Chipotle’s ingredients.

The Bottom Line.

Millennials have trillions of buying power in their hands and they are a different demographic than their parents were at this stage in their lives. The game of getting your products noticed and building a customer base has become increasingly difficult, but the marketers that adapt to the new consumer attitudes and take creative risks will succeed.


The author is executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance and vice president of public affairs for NPMA. For more about PPMA, visit