Marketing to Millennials

First, I need to tell you all something important: I am not a millennial. I was born in 1976, so I came at the very tail end of Generation X. This means I don’t live in my parents’ basement. Nor do I exhibit an air of entitlement or share every detail of my life on social media. I have a job, and I don’t require my bosses to shower me with positive feedback every five minutes. Also, my mom didn’t accompany me to my job interview.

That’s sarcasm, of course, but all of these things have been said over and over again about the 82 million people born between the early 1980s and 2000s. A quick Google Trends search of the term “millennial” illustrates that mentions of this generation have reached a fevered pitch in 2014. (Most of those mentions are probably from disgruntled Gen Xers, if I’m going to round out my sarcasm.)

So what’s the big deal?

The numbers. There were 77 million baby boomers, about 50 million Gen Xers and now 82 million millennials. Eighty-two million. That’s that largest generational group of humans in the history of mankind. As they continue to enter adulthood, millennials will change our world more profoundly than any other generation before it, including the boomers.

What does this mean for your casino’s marketing—and perhaps more importantly, what can you do about it?

Think like a demographer. You understand your current audience, which is mostly made up of boomers and some older Xers. Look at your player database and map the birth years of your players. Then think beyond the next quarter, for just a moment. What will the graph look like in five years? Ten years? The mix is going to look a bit different. The youngest boomers are just turning 50 this year, so Generation X and the millennials are about to come into the crosshairs in a pronounced way.

Study up. Do some research. As I’ve mentioned, there is no shortage of words being written on millennials. You’ll have to sift through a lot of stereotypical drivel like the mess I wrote at the beginning of this article, but you’ll start to see some macroeconomic trends that have legitimately affected the perspectives and behavior of this generation. In my opinion, understanding the motivations and thinking of your audience is one of the most important keys to marketing.

Segment your messaging. Given the marathon nature of branding, this generational shift is going to require a gradual evolution of your brand approach rather than something that has to happen overnight. However, you can begin working on smarter audience segmentation now by adding richer demographic and psychographic information on players in your database. This will allow you to segment your messaging and media placement to deliver creative content tailored specifically for your various audiences.

It has been well documented that millennials have extremely sensitive antennae in regards to advertising and generally reject being “sold.” Couple this with the fact that the group is wallet-conscious and seeks experiences over accumulation of material goods, and you’ve got to start teasing out this segment and trying new things.

Experimentation. Any given marketing program for a casino property consists of myriad tactical executions. You don’t have to upend your entire program to start an effort to attract younger gamers. In fact, one of the benefits of the fragmented media landscape we operate in today is the ability to siphon off a single channel and experiment. That usually means digital, and often social media, because of the relative flexibility of the platforms and perceived low cost of implementation. Nonetheless, the devil is in the details.

Get Digital. Every brand is now a digital brand. Everyone, but particularly millennials, relies on digital channels to connect to the world. Brand perceptions are shaped by interactions happening online—everything from a single tweet to the booking experience on your website to the confirmation email your player receives post-purchase. Your brand, regardless of heritage, is now a digital brand.

It is equally important to understand that technology is not a strategy. Simply being in the space isn’t enough. Remember those sensitive antennae milliennials have? They’ll see through a half-baked effort. So this rules out “we’ve got a Facebook page” as your digital strategy.

For our clients, we like to apply a concept to digital whether the effort is part of a larger integrated campaign or a one-off experimental execution. For example, we just launched a Zombie-themed mobile game as a loyalty component to one client’s Halloween promotions. This is the kind of thoughtful approach millennials will think is cool.

Design matters. Tone of voice matters too. Again, the millennial generation is seeking authenticity, not polished sales pitches. They appreciate good design and honest language. If you consider the other products and services they use on a frequent basis, many are technology-oriented—which is a category that fuses clean industrial design and user interface design (think Apple). So your typography matters, your photography matters, your words matter. In a crowded category like gaming, great design can be a differentiator.

The 82 million millennials are coming to your casino soon. And their moms won’t be dropping them off. Get ready.

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Rich Sullivan is CEO of Red Square Gaming, a full-service advertising agency that focuses on casino brands. Follow him @redsquaregamers or email him at rich@redsquaregaming.com.