Forbes estimates that the 86 million millennials in the U.S. will spend approximately $200 billion by 2017. But let’s face it, times are tough, budgets are tight and everyone is trying to make every dollar count. No one feels this new reality as much as millennials. They are coming of age in a time when student loan debt is greater than credit card debt, when 36 percent of them live with their parents and unemployment for their age range hovers around 10 percent. These financial constraints, despite all that buying power, make it more important than ever to understand what message will cause millennials to spend their dollars on your brand. Here’s one statistic that will begin to answer that question: 83 percent of millennials made a financial gift to an organization in 2012.
Millennials couldn’t care less about your message. They are far more interested in your story. They know money cannot buy happiness, so why try to sell it to them? Millennials aren’t caught up in status symbols, at least not the traditional ones, and to them it is cool to be uncool. When a millennial spends a dollar, it is more than just a one-to-one transaction of currency for a product. They want to make sure every dollar spent is an investment – an investment in their future, their community, their world, their cause. To put it simply, before spending a millennial will ask, “Is investing in your story going to make mine better?”
Like I said, millennials aren’t going to try to buy happiness, but they will invest in joy. Happiness is fleeting, brought about by outside stimuli without much lasting power. But joy is internal. Joy will stay with you and live on in your memory. Joy is an experience, an adventure. Joy is helping someone in need, having someone care about you, saving the planet. The point is, joy can be anything, but it is nothing you can buy – though money will have to be spent to allow the experience. Millennials spend 50 bucks on Toms shoes that cost $5 to make because the company gives away one pair for every pair purchased. When millennials were asked what products they will increase or decrease their spending on over the next 12 months, the biggest increase was for fresh produce while the largest decrease was for luxury brands. The most popular food chain among millennials is, not surprisingly, the one that sources local and guarantees organic: Chipotle.
This is all fine and good, but I am sure you are still scratching your head and asking, “Great. How am I supposed to sell something money can’t buy?” The answer is simple. Sell your story. The key is to tell your story and show millennials you care about them and their causes; the key is to show millennials you care about their story. If you can accomplish that, then they will want to make your brand part of their story and make sure the whole world knows. They will wear your brand like a badge of honor, eat at your restaurant as often as possible, and want you to be their partner in all their adventures. To millennials, the new status symbol is a good story.