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US millennial women make up a huge group that is almost impossible to characterize. For one thing, the age range covers those still in high school all the way through women approaching their mid-30s. And they are a more ethnically diverse generation than any that has come before, according to a new eMarketer report, “Millennial Women: How Their Social Network Usage, Shopping Habits and Personal Finances Add Up.”
Nevertheless, in interviews with eMarketer, executives at a variety of marketing and media companies suggested some broad ideas for addressing US millennial females.
Don’t play the “generation gap” card. “The press constantly pits and positions generations against each other, but that doesn’t resonate with millennials,” said Victoria Draper, director of consumer analytics and research at AOL. “They do look up to boomers and Gen X women. This gives publishers and brands a great opening to celebrate the significant alignment that exists between the generations.”
Remember that millennials encompass a range of age groups. Showing a diverse set of consumers in marketing materials is essential, said Rebecca Eisenberg, deputy editor at Upworthy. A lot of consumer packaged goods advertising comes off as aspirational for millennial women without children, who make up roughly half of the demographic. For example, she added, paper towel ads are often targeted at moms with young children, but “if you’re a single woman who spills some wine on the carpet, you need a paper towel, too. [Millennial women] want to know that the company they’re giving their money to gets who they are.”
Don’t forget diversity. As the most ethnically diverse generation (43% are nonwhite, according to a March 2014 Pew Research Center study), millennials “are looking to see themselves represented in the media they’re watching,” Eisenberg added. “It’s really important to show a diversity of people—different races, ages and sexual orientations.”
Don’t split the sexes. Alex Abraham, director of Edelman’s 8095 Insights Group, said the lines are increasingly blurring between male and female millennials. “Many of the traditional differences between the two are going away. There are a lot more women in the workforce, women for years have outnumbered men in the college ranks, and there are more stay-at-home dads. With the millennial generation, you need to be able to speak to parents. There should be less talking specifically to moms and dads, because the parent role can take many different forms for this generation.”
Tap into millennial idealism. Cause-related marketing goes a long way with millennial women, according to Draper. Brands who show their support of social women’s issues or allow young women to support their causes will win big with them. For example, Dove’s 2013 “Real Beauty Sketches” video and its “Patches” video released earlier this year served to highlight women’s body image issues—and quickly went viral. Brands such as TOMS and Warby Parker, which pledge to help a person in need for every purchase made, have also gained traction in recent years.
Inspire them. “Embrace their positivity and their fun-loving personality, but embrace their struggle. Highlighting stories that feature those who remain positive in the face of obstacles really resonates with them,” Draper said. “The way they emotionally handle their struggle is relevant.”
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