Four things marketers need to know about millennial women

We have just got back from M2W, the world’s biggest conference about marketing to women, which was held in New York this year. As we fight against the jet lag and information-overload that comes from such a packed agenda, it’s interesting to reflect on the biggest topic of the event: Millennial women.

There may have been a lot of noise in the press about Millennials already, but there was a huge amount of discussion about this demographic amongst speakers and delegates alike, all keen to know more. As Nan McCann, president of M2W, said in her opening statement: “From Malala Yousafzai to Jennifer Lawrence, Millennial women are asserting the social, political, cultural and economic power of their majority … in every segment of society … in every corner of the world”.

The sentiment was that Millennial women are full of contradictions: charitable yet demanding, self absorbed yet communal, highly social and peer influenced yet they gate-keep intensively – all of which has made it difficult for marketers to create a clear Millennials’ engagement strategy. We have therefore pulled together the key findings from the conference and our thoughts on how brands should respond to them:

They define their own consumer journeys:

The old purchasing funnel (awareness through to purchase) is obsolete for Millennials. The new model is an infinite figure of eight loop – a constant flow of research and dialogue. It’s interesting that, while Millennials pride themselves on being independent thinkers, they place considerable value on the opinions of friends, peers and family from whom they seek inspiration and advice about products. Indeed, 93 per cent of Millennials have made a purchase after hearing about it from a family member or friends and 87 per cent trust products after conducting their own research (typically with significant investigation amongst their friends).

What this means for marketers:

Millennial women don’t trust brand content. They read it in full but are aware that it may be biased because it is written with the intent to sell. Research from Influence Central shows that 97 per cent of Millennials feel confident they can tell the credibility of a review (i.e. if it is exaggerated or biased). They don’t want to be told what to do, so don’t push content at them.

To get female Millennials to engage with your brand create lots of opportunities for open communication: Get them talking about your product, commenting on and sharing posts and reviewing your products online – and make it two-way by responding appropriately. Humour can be a great (and often underused) way of connecting with women. Find ways to be part of their ongoing research and dialogue and don’t be afraid to jump in and help. Optimise everything for all devices and make sure these conversations and insights about your products area easily shareable via social.

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Many are driven by altruism

According to Kerry Lyons, SVO Sales & Marketing at House Party, Millennial women are 40 per cent more likely to want to align with brands with causes. They tend to get involved with community and humanity institutions for fundamentally different motivators than earlier generations. Helping a cause, supporting an organisation and making a positive, measurable impact is a big motivator for them. 80 per cent of Millennials are likely to switch brands similar in quality and price to one that supports a cause (M2W Conference 2016).

What this means for marketers:

Connect with these women with more than just a good product and a great price. You need to demonstrate your dedication to causes and institutions (even if they are not obviously related to the business’ bottom line). This is why brands such as Tom’s the shoe company that donates a new pair of shoes to an impoverished child with every pair purchased, have aligned with their values.

They create your brand story:

Your brand is no longer solely yours to control. The rise of social means the dynamic has shifted away from brands creating and having ownership of content to an era where consumers create the brand story. In fact, Millennial women view themselves as brand partners and expect to be included in the process of creating their own products, marketing and brand experiences. 45 per cent of Millennials say they hold the power to help brands succeed or fail (Havas). With their use of social and digital platforms exceeding their male counterparts, they may have a point.

What this means for marketers:

For many marketers letting go of the reins doesn’t come naturally, but the key to success is finding a balance between branded content and user generated content produced by consumers to tell an honest and connected brand story. Kelley Skoloda, Partner, Global Brand Marketing Practice at Ketchum introduced the concept of ‘un-marketing’ as the way forward, with marketers seeing themselves not as ‘push messengers’ but as ‘story starters’, inviting women to co-create brand stories with brands.

However, it’s important to remember that brands still need to moderate user-generated content and protect themselves from potential damage.

They consider themselves equals to their peers but demand to be treated as individuals:

This doesn’t mean Millennial women aren’t ambitious or don’t strive to be leaders. They simply don’t view social engagement such as retweets, likes and followers as an indication of or affirmation of their status: over 40 per cent say they don’t measure their personal success against others on social media. They prefer to stay on a more equal footing with friends, family and peers as they share information, and view all peers as their equals.

The biggest mistake marketers could make is to treat Millennial women as a single ‘one size fits all’ group. The truth is women from diverse age groups fall into the category of Millennials (ranging from age 18 – 34). This means the category includes school levers and university graduates to women who are hitting their mid-30s and each and every one of them wants to be treated as an individual and marketed to accordingly.

What this means for marketers:

Make her the hero! Recent research found that 67 per cent of women appreciate brands that make them the hero vs themselves (the brand). When it comes to engaging Millennial women, brands that talk about themselves will swiftly be discarded.

At the end of the conference, Jenny Darroch, author of Why Marketing to Women Doesn’t Work, summarised why we are right to be so interested in the Millennial female: “they represent a quarter of the population, they are the pipeline of our consumers and, most importantly, they will keep us contemporary.”

By Sam Ellison and Emma Jones, managing partners at Redshoe Brand Design, a design agency specialising in designing for women.

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