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Many of the stereotypical observations marketers in Canada make about millennials are true. As “digital natives,” millennials are at the leading edge of mobile and social behaviors and spend more time with digital than with any other media type. It makes sense then for companies hoping to engage with this demographic to focus on digital. But simply meeting millennials in the digital space isn’t enough. Appealing to their likes and the values they hold dear is as important as the channel in which a marketer engages them, according to a new eMarketer report, “Canada Millennials: Understanding Their Media Habits and Preferences.”
Traditional advertising and promotional models that worked well with baby boomers and Generation X don’t appeal as strongly to younger groups. The reasons are partly due to millennials’ digital tastes, but they are also a reflection of brand trust in a world where transparency is a must and highly informed consumers are the norm.
Millennials in Canada had a more negative predisposition to brands compared with millennials in other countries, according to an April 2014 IPG Mediabrands global “Reset Generation” study, as cited in a January 2015 report from Initiative, which focused specifically on responses by millennials in Canada.
More than a quarter (27%) of IPG respondents in Canada said they were cynical about the way brands communicated with them. Conversely, similar percentages of millennial respondents valued brand communications somewhat: 32% reported interacting with brands online, 26% claimed they enjoyed the way brands communicated with them, and 26% felt that brands were an important part of their lives.
It’s interesting to assess the degree to which specific brands appeal differently to different generations in Canada. A December 2014 study by Ipsos found quick-service restaurant chain Tim Hortons more influential among younger cohorts, likely due to its economical menu and heavy presence on and near student campuses across the country, but less so among Gen X or boomers. YouTube’s impact on millennials was even higher, a reflection of digital video uptake among this group. Conversely, Wal-Mart ranked in the top 10 for both boomers and Gen X but didn’t chart among millennials, likely due to only older millennials viewing Wal-Mart as a source for family purchasing. Likewise, retailer Canadian Tire, while ranking in the top 10 for boomers, didn’t register with either Gen X or millennials—perhaps a bad signal for the general merchandise mainstay.
One of the key takeaways of Initiative’s report was that brands that speak well to millennials cultivate an authentic feel in their brand messaging. “I think the biggest thing is the truth within the message,” said Andrew Au, president of youth marketing agency Intercept Group. “This group is so quick to call BS. They’re extremely savvy, and in some cases, equally as savvy as the marketer trying to engage them.”
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