Our very own Fiona Maurice, head of client services at JPS Limited, was recently asked by Direct Commerce to contribute to its July / August magazine.
By 2019 it’s predicted that the millennial population will hit the 17 million mark[i]. The demographic, also known as Generation Y, a cohort born between the years of 1980 to 2000, is rapidly becoming the most talked about audience for businesses to reach.
In the UK businesses are investing millions trying to understand the millennial, how they live and crucially, how they spend. To achieve this, many corporations and brands are putting an emphasis on adapting and evolving technology as routes to engage with, and remain relevant to the millennial.
It’s easy to understand why many businesses have decided to take this approach. The mainstream media has labelled the millennial as unable to function without a smartphone. They’re ‘digital natives’, they want everything in real-time, with instant gratification at their fingertips, immediate service and trends, for them, last as long in the physical world as they do on Twitter.
However, a recent study has revealed that there could be a lot more to targeting the millennial successfully than meets the eye and in fact, it’s the more ‘traditional’ approach to marketing that’s the most impactful.
The Centre for Experimental Consumer Psychology at Bangor University recently conducted an experiment using an MRI scanner while presenting millennial participants with digital and physical advertisements.
The results revealed that the printed materials not only made a deeper impression with them, but they were also perceived as being more genuine to the viewer.
According to the study, “The ‘real’ experience that the physical media provides means it’s better at becoming part of memory. It generates more emotion, which should help to develop more positive brand associations. The real experience is also internalised, which means the materials have a more personal effect, and therefore should aid motivation.
What’s more, millennials respond quicker to direct mail and have a higher open rate than other generational groups.
According to Experian, nearly every millennial (aged 18-35) owns a smartphone, and 43 per cent say that they now access the internet more through their phone than a computer, compared with just 20 per cent of adults ages 35 and older. However, despite this, millennials as a group report that the last time they responded to direct mail campaign was within 2.4 months. This is in comparison to the mean average of 35 – 49 year olds of 2.8 months and 60 to 65 year olds of 3.8 months.[ii]
The reasons consumers continue to open and engage with direct mail are many, but interest in the products and services offered tops the list. One quarter of those in the 25-34 year old age range say they opened direct mail because of the print and image quality, and 25 per cent of millennials consider reading direct mail a leisure activity[iii].
I referred earlier to ‘digital natives’ in relation to millennials. The term quite simply means those who grew up using the internet on a daily basis and its attachment to the millennial has without question guided many marketers to reallocate budget for print materials to online activities. However, in my view it over simplifies the millennial and implies that they are essentially ‘digital only’.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Believe it or not, millennials actually like getting physical letters in the mail. In fact, according to a 2016 study from InfoTrends, millennials are the most likely of any generation to read direct mail.
In the same study, twenty-five per cent of millennials said that they enjoy reading direct mail. In today’s increasingly digital age, getting a letter in the mail is an interesting novelty, even if it’s just an advertisement, marketing campaign or promotion. The researchers found that 18-21 year olds, in particular, read mailings immediately up to 62 per cent of the time.
Rather than ignoring direct mail, millennials are embracing it. Not only that, but these letters are incredibly likely to influence purchasing behaviour. Direct mail is more effective, in many cases, than marketing emails. Ninety-two per cent of millennials have been influenced to make a purchasing decision through direct marketing, versus 78 per cent by email. This isn’t purely by chance, or due to the novelty of something more ‘traditional’.
Millennials are bombarded by sales and marketing messages daily in their digital lives, but it’s incredibly rare for them to receive those physically. Add to this, the fact that millennials distrust brands who are overly promotional or who they feel encroach on their social networks and online worlds. It therefore, stands to reason that print would have more chance of a successful cut through.
And it’s not just about the physical for the millennial. A further study found that 90 per cent of millennials would switch brands to one that is associated to a cause. Sustainability and corporate responsibility make a big impact on their buying decisions[iv].
Brand transparency is also key. Millennials have at their fingertips all the information on a company or product to make a judgement.
That’s not to say that online isn’t relevant – smartphone access is particularly important – but rather it’s not necessarily the best or only trigger to begin engagement with millennials. I believe there will be times when digital marketing will be more suitable to achieve specific objectives, but also there may be other initiatives where direct mail or a multichannel approach may be a more effective route.
In the end, it’s important to remember that direct mail is a powerful tool marketers have in their pursuit of millennials. It’s preferred, it combines seamlessly with digital channels and—most importantly—it works.
[i] Inking Millennial Report 2015
[ii] InfoTrends September 2016
[iii] Experian 2016
[iv] Cone Communications Millennial Corporate Social Responsibility Study 2015