Today, I’m at eTail West 2016 in Palm Desert, California, speaking to brands about effective strategies for marketing to Millennials and Generation Z. Today, these two generations — born, respectively, between 1977—1995 and after 1995 — comprise just short of half the population, and in the coming years their share of the consumer market and workplace will increase significantly.

With more than $200 billion in combined purchasing power, Millennials and Generation Z are a customer segment marketers can’t afford to ignore, but we’ll never reach them successfully if we don’t understand what makes them tick.

Millennials and Generation Z are especially important to Allrecipes because, at 39 percent of our visitors, they comprise the largest share of our audience; they’re also the most likely group of cooks to share their personal food experiences through social media, which is a key component of our social network. In my talk, I addressed a couple of myths about these generations, as well as provided examples of brands already doing a great job connecting with Millennials and Generation Z.

Myth: These people are broke.

  • It’s true a large number of Millennials are dealing with student debt and earning lower incomes than they expected at this stage. But as a group they are optimistic and ambitious, confident that if they’re not earning what they want now they will in the future. It may surprise you that 14 percent of people with assets valued greater than $2 million are Millennials.
  • Generation Z is still very new to the workforce, with its oldest members turning 21 this year, but they command billions of dollars in direct and indirect spending power.

Myth: Millennials and Generation Z are self-obsessed.

  • The selfie generations? True, these generations spend a lot of time sharing images of themselves on social sites, however don’t confuse this behavior with self-obsession; a huge portion of these selfies and posts are about connection and self-expression. Millennials and Generation Z are highly idealistic with a strong self of responsibility to others, with high priorities on ideals and duties such as caring for elderly family members and giving to nonprofits.

Mobile’s no myth, and other success factors.
Millennials and Generation Z-ers are on their mobile devices all the time; that’s definitely not a myth. It’s the new reality, and brands that haven’t already prioritized mobile as a marketing channel are going to find themselves shut out of the Millennial and Gen Z markets. At Allrecipes, mobile is by far the top device used to access our brand among younger audiences; Last year 84 percent of Millennials and Generation Z visits occur on mobile devices, amounting to a half of a billion visits. We reached this scale by ensuring our product, marketing, and socials teams are highly focused and aligned on creating content experiences highly optimized for mobile both on and off our site.

In my talk, I addressed three core requirements (in addition to mobile) for winning over younger consumers:

  • Providing great (authentic, entertaining, useful) content. Marketing isn’t about selling anymore, but instead about sharing the narrative of your brand in ways that demonstrate its commitment to delivering value to consumers. Great content, especially content that helps your audience further their passions, tell their stories, and/or simplify their ability to fulfill everyday tasks, allows you to tell your story in ways that capture their imagination and loyalty.
  • Building social relationships. Simply having your product on a store shelf or online store isn’t enough today; Millennials and Generation Z-ers expect to engage your brand on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Allrecipes, Periscope, and other leading social platforms. They want to post photos, share reviews, amplify story reach through likes, and engage with other people who share their enthusiasm. You need to find ways where your brand can help them build their social capital.
  • Connecting Millennials and Generation Z to the greater good. Whether they’re looking for products made from renewable materials, companies that donate to communities in need, or spokespeople who take a stand on the issues they care about, Millennials and Generation Z are as committed to brands that share their values, as to products that offer a good value.

Brands paving the road to lasting success are doing things like providing added reach to fans’ posts on Instagram by “re-gramming” their posts or using the same hashtags, or inviting their fans to be part of exclusive brand moments through Periscope live streams, or creating documentaries or other videos focused not on their brand, but on social causes or topics that matter most to their customers.

Averting the ad blocker
A focus on personal connection, self-expression, and tailored content experiences was a major factor informing Allrecipes’ September site relaunch where we transformed our brand experience into the world’s largest, food-focused social network. Our vision wasn’t to create yet another social network, but instead to offer an experience dedicated to making food and cooking infinitely more rewarding for food enthusiasts by allowing them to leverage 350 million peer-shared experiences, along with their personal connections, to guide their daily cooking journey from inspiration to celebration.

Providing a more social, mobile, personalized experience were Allrecipes’ key ingredients for bringing to life a more meaningful experience for the next generation of home cooks. This more native, content-rich experience was also of foundational importance due to marketers’ worst fear: the ad blocker. Ad blockers are a direct result of consumers’ backlash against irrelevant or distracting content. It’s their way of saying, “if you want permission to reach me through an experience that’s highly personal, you must connect with me on my terms.” That’s why it’s so important to understand your customers and provide personalized, intriguing content tailored towards meeting their immediate interests and needs.

Allrecipes’ transformation was designed with these types of customized experiences in mind. Our pages feature hyper-local, shopper marketing native advertising units that help shoppers stretch their grocery dollars further. Our feeds leverage our proprietary “cooking graph” to deliver personalized streams of meal recommendations that match each cook’s unique taste profile and social graph. And our profile pages provide opportunities for brands and cooks to build direct relationships with one another to share unique stories, celebrate common passions and stay connected through shared activities.

As we continue move through the 21st century alongside these up-and-coming generations, we’re excited to see what will spark their passions next and come up with new ways to meet them where they are and where they want to be. To learn more about how Allrecipes and other brands are leading the way connecting with Millennials and Generation Z, a full version of my eTail West presentation is available for viewing on SlideShare.

Stan Pavlovsky