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Marketing to Mobile Millennials: Misperceptions and Myths

Marketing to Mobile Millennials: Misperceptions and Myths

Most marketers are aware of millennials' diversity, but they may not realize how diverse they truly are. An impressive 38 percent are bilingual -- up from 22 percent in 2003, according to Nielsen. Also, 19 percent are Hispanic, 14 percent are African-American, and 5 percent are Asian. It would be a big marketing mistake to assume that a U.S.-centric approach would appeal to mobile millennials.

By Erika Morphy CRM Buyer ECT News Network
07/08/14 5:53 PM PT

Despite their financial burdens -- unconscionably high levels of college education debt and a lackluster job market -- everyone wants to know what millenials want. Where will they live? What will they buy?

Automakers shake in fear that they won't develop the same obsession for the automobile-oriented lifestyle as their parents. Apartment builders have no compunction about building more and more edgy, in-fill dwellings for them, content in the knowledge that home ownership is a long away off for this crowd.

Mobile, of course, is an important part of millennial life. Young adults would be willing give up the basics -- sex, TV, who knows, possibly even oxygen -- if it were necessary to keep their devices active and with them 24 hours a day, surveys suggest.

Between the Lines

As scrutinized as this generation is by marketers, myths and misperceptions abound. The scary numbers of young people now living with their parents?

Statistics can be misleading. The Census Bureau counts college students as living with their parents, and what has really changed is the growing number of young people attaining higher education, notes an article in The Atlantic.

Other stats do have sobering implications for this group and the larger economy, however, such as the high burden of education debt millennials are shouldering.

Teasing out what is true, what is not, and what it really means can be tricky but highly worthwhile. There is a reason marketers and apartment builders and automobile manufacturers all want to know what this group is up to: Their spending habits will shape the economy and workforce for decades.

The Cosmo Example

As more millennials go mobile -- not only for communications, but also for other computing needs -- content will have to follow.

That's not lost on Cosmopolitan.com, which recently launched a redesigned website aimed at the mobile user. The new site struck gold, according to the Financial Times.

Its traffic surged 200 percent to nearly 30 million unique visitors in May from a year ago, the Times said, citing Adobe Analytics statistics. Mobile accounted for 69 percent of its page views, up from a third in 2012.

What We Think We Know

With that in mind, following are four myths about millennials and their mobile use.

1. Millennials prefer their mobile devices over TV. False, according to Experian Marketing Services. Certainly they love their smartphones but TV still accounts for the largest share of their media consumption on a weekly basis, at 37 percent.

2. Millennials wil buy anything as long as they can do so from a mobile device. Not if it's a tablet, according to a surprising report from Shullman Research Center. Millennials are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to be uncomfortable using a tablet to buy something, the research group found in a study about how millennials shop.

3. Millennials are U.S.-centric. Actually, most marketers are aware of millennials' diversity, but I don't think they realize just how diverse they truly are. For instance, an impressive 38 percent are bilingual -- up from 22 percent in 2003, according to Nielsen. Also, 19 percent are Hispanic, 14 percent are African-American, and 5 percent are Asian.

4. Marketing geared to millennials can be U.S.-centric. Definitely not, especially in a mobile environment. Hispanic millennials are more likely than non-Hispanic millennials to be mobile-first -- that is, accessing the Internet primarily from their devices, according to Experian Marketing -- while paradoxically spending more time with traditional media than their non-Hispanic counterparts. Hispanic millennials are more likely than non-Hispanics to use mobile devices as a second screen while watching TV, according to PricewaterhouseCooper.


Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.


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