Marketing Your Cause to Millennials—
What Works

chapincoleheadshot13smallGuest blogger, Chapin Cole is a proud Millennial who works in nonprofit development in the California Bay Area. She blogs here on getting successful yet stress-free as a nonprofit staffer.

The Secret to Marketing to Millennials—There Isn’t One

If I read another blog post about how to talk to Millennials, I’m going to scream. Yes, I’m a proud member of Generation Y, and I often talk about my experience in the context of my age, but I won’t be pigeonholed.

I appreciate that marketers are interested in how to talk to people my age, but I promise that you don’t have to perform magic to speak to us. We’re not aliens. Just like any other generation, we come with some similarities from our upbringing, but for the most part, other parts of our identity make a big difference in our approach to life.

Here are a few tips about how to understand trends but appreciate nuances when you’re thinking about the Millennial generation.

  • One size does not fit all. We’re all different, and we’re all going to respond to different things. Some of us like to talk while some of us like to listen, some of us don’t care what anyone thinks while some are looking for constant reassurance. Treat us as individuals, and care what we have to say – don’t get caught up on trying to generalize our whole generation.
  • Listen. What we want isn’t a secret–trust me, we will let you know. Or, we’ll let each other know.
  • Don’t blame us. So many “findings” about Millennials have some sort of negative skew. They all think they deserve a trophy just for trying, is one that comes to mind. If our parents told us that trying our best was good enough, how is that our fault? Don’t be accusatory.

Bottom line, if you want to “understand our generation,” the first step is to change your thinking that we’ll all respond to the same thing. Know some common characteristics—we like to feel like we have value, we like to be included, we like to feel like we’re special—and stop there with generalizations! Then get personal.

What are your thoughts about talking to Millennials? What has worked for you? Please share your thoughts here.

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Guest Blogger on March 1, 2013 in Audience Research | 3 comments
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kari Dunn Saratovsky March 5, 2013 at 11:32 am

Chapin, thanks for the good post – and couldn’t agree with you more. This is something that Derrick Feldmann and I talk at length about in our new book, Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement. There simply is no silver bullet and given the diversity and size of our generation, grouping all 80 Million Millennials into one box is a tough thing to do.

The challenge is that Millennials like all generations have great competition for our limited time and limited attention spans. We want to be communicated with in an authentic and approachable way, but because we’re impulsive, if you don’t make a good first impression, it will be hard to win us over in the long run.

Thanks for prompting the good discussion here!

2 Nancy Schwartz March 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Kari, thanks for adding your thoughts. Your book is a wonderful contribution to insight into millennials, a prereq to reaching you (SOME of you). Can’t wait to dive in.

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