Mind the [Generation] Gap

Say what you want about the millennial generation, but the fact of the matter is they are changing the way companies—across all industries—will do business in the coming decades.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Innovaro
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Innovaro

According to Javelin Strategy and Research, by next year, Generation Y’s annual spending is expected to be more than $2.45 trillion in the U.S. alone. By 2018, their projected income will be around $3.39 trillion annually. Many industries have already tailored marketing strategies towards their 18-to-34 year-old customers, especially in retail and tech markets, but professional service trades seem to be missing this crucial marketing window.

Consumer research consistently shows that buyers feel brand loyalty towards brands they grew up with or feel familiar with. Adults buy the brand of toothpaste or laundry detergent their mom did because the packaging is recognizable and the product feels safe. Because things like banking, investing, purchasing insurance coverage and managing legal needs are done with greater privacy, brand loyalty in these industries doesn’t seem as hardwired. This presents an opportunity for professional services companies to make their mark on millennials’ blank slates.

As stated before, millennials already have tremendous spending power and, for the first time in their lives, they’re beginning to seek out products and services in financial, insurance and legal industries. If companies capitalize on this window of opportunity, they will gain not only new customers, but also customers with the potential to stick with their company for decades of business.

So how can professional services groups reach this new audience?

Obviously, social media is one component. Sixty-six percent of millennials use social channels to stay informed about brands and products (according to Ipsos) and nine out of ten “take action weekly on behalf of a brand” (Edelman). While investing time and money into every emerging social channel is unnecessary, companies should pick the platforms that best fit their corporate image and goals. Millennials expect a social media presence from companies they’re considering working with, and they’ll be disappointed if they can’t turn anything up.

Since this is the first time many millennial shoppers are seeking out professional services, companies can capture their attention and loyalty through educational resources. Developing blogs, webcasts or infographics that help Gen Y customers navigate the uncharted waters of 401(k)s and renters insurance will attract eyes to your website and instill confidence in your services. Arbella Insurance’s Carpartment infographics and Capital One’s podcasts are good examples of informational material aimed at the Gen Y demographic.

Lastly, as PR practitioners, we can support our financial, insurance and legal clients by developing storylines that resonate with young adults and targeting outlets that better reach this audience. Thinking outside of the box—outside of the regular business press lineup—and instead partnering with popular bloggers, webinar series and relevant magazines, can reach a new and broader audience. These outlets are less crowded as well, so it’s easier to maintain a larger share of the voice.

Millennials are truly hungry for information and advice as they wade through weighty life decisions for the first time. Companies should use their PR programs to make the most of this critical marketing window.

Lucy Muscarella is an Account Executive at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @lucymuscarella