Once again, Millennials — the generation born between the early 1980s and 2000 — give us reason to sit up and pay attention. According to Accenture, in less than five years, Millennial annual spending will surge to an estimated $1.4 trillion. Although Millennials make up the most diverse and highly educated generation, most think of them as trendy 20- or 30-somethings with smartphones in one hand and tablets in the other.

It’s true, Millennials spend more time on the Internet and use mobile devices more than any other generation, but they are more traditional than marketers might think. Here are three myths that can have a tremendous impact on marketers and their ability to reach this powerful generation of consumers:


Myth No. 1: Millennials Ignore Print

Forget marketing and consider print itself. The Centre for Experimental Consumer Psychology at Bangor University conducted a study (opens as a PDF) verifying that the physical nature of print elicits an emotional connection and creates a deeper impression in the brain than something non-physical, like a digital message. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the study found that content delivered in paper form is more stimulating than content delivered in virtual or digital form. This is not lost on Millennials; their brains perceive physical material to be more genuine.

In fact, 82 percent of Millennials read direct mail from retail brands and more than half (54 percent) look forward to receiving hard-copy retail catalogs in the mail, as reported in “Millennials: An Emerging Consumer Powerhouse,” an annual study by Quad/Graphics that tracks Millennial consumer shopping habits and media preferences. During the past 30 days, 49 percent even took print coupons with them to the store, and nearly three of four Millennials use grocery retail inserts — 6 percent more than the average shopper. While direct mail, advertising inserts and catalogs stand out as important channels for this age group, Millennials are still multichannel shoppers. So digital elements are critical to any campaign. Neither print nor digital should stand alone.

Myth No. 2: Millennials Only Engage in a Digital Environment

No doubt, Millennials rely on technology. But time spent does not equate to time engaged with marketing messages. Because email marketing is relatively inexpensive, it’s overused and leads to message fatigue. Based on findings from the Quad study, nearly half of Millennials say they ignore email and Internet ads. On the other hand, only 15 percent of Millennials say they ignore direct mail print advertising; and despite the fact that 62 percent of Millennials read content on mobile devices, 45 percent ignore mobile text advertising.

When it comes to social media, Millennials engage with Facebook more than any other social network. More than 83 percent share and stay connected via Facebook, double those interacting on Instagram — the next leading network. Even though they sign on and actively thumb through their feeds, fewer than one in 10 Millennials made a purchase based on social media activity; and just 1 percent purchased an item from a social site. Just because they use and prefer electronic media more than other generations doesn’t mean that Millennials are paying attention to marketing messages on digital platforms.

Myth No. 3: Millennials Spend Carelessly

Contrary to generational stereotypes, Millennials are actually cost-conscious multichannel consumers. They use print and mobile coupons after actively shopping from catalogs and retail inserts. Nearly half (49 percent) actually think it is fun to see how much money they can save using coupons, loyalty cards and offers that put money back in their pockets. Almost two-thirds (57 percent) of Millennials respond to “Buy One, Get One Free” offers from direct mail, and more than half respond to both gift card and percentage-off-total-purchase offers. Further, more than half (52 percent) would gladly switch regularly used brands if they had coupons.

Even though the majority of Millennials are more likely to notice marketing messages in print as opposed to on digital platforms, more than a third (37 percent) do access a retailer’s website to view a weekly ad — roughly the same percentage who will read an email if it’s from their loyalty rewards program (46 percent). Overall, this group of consumers spends cautiously and is becoming more resourceful when it comes to shopping.

Like no other generation, Millennials are driving when, where and how they engage with the marketing messages that matter to them, the products they want to buy and the brands they support. While Millennials want the instant gratification and flexibility that digital connections give them — print is a more effective way to market to them. As Millennials continue to surprise us with their shopping habits, it’s important that marketers avoid making assumptions and take the time to understand their audience and consider the nuances of this generation.

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