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Is "Millennial" A Marketing Misnomer? 3 Ways Automakers Are Appealing to a Mindset Instead of an Age Group

Posted by Nick Matarazzo on February 13th, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Millennials. There are old ones, young ones, ones who aren’t married (and ones who are), urban ones, suburban ones. The list goes on. Just like with every labeled age group before (Generation X, Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation), it’s virtually impossible to fit this generation perfectly into one, single entity. “Millennial” is a marketing misnomer if unilateral marketing strategies are applied to the lot.

But there are commonalities that can help marketers connect with younger buyers—across lifestyles and sensibilities.


1. Customization, Without the Price

This group likes to customize. They think of themselves as brands, and want their products to represent their unique identities. According to a January 2014 J.D. Power study, some 27% of young drivers say they want to personalize their vehicle with options and features. And in a recent survey, Jumpstart found that younger buyers list cost of ownership as the third most important factor when buying or leasing a vehicle, which means the price needs to be right. Chevrolet has been successful by giving them loads of customization options, and keeping costs low. The Chevrolet Spark (starting at under $13,000) comes with an in-dash seven-inch touchscreen and is available in a range of vibrant colors with names like (“salsa,” “lemonade,” “denim,”). Their strategy has resonated with buyers. Jumpstart found that after launching in 2012, Chevy Spark’s share of shopper interest grew more than four times in 2013, giving it a 6% share of all compact shopper interest for the year. Chevy also reported that Spark sales exceeded the company’s first-year sales expectations by 35%.

2. Innovation That Matters

Younger shoppers grew up with technology and expect products to have it. Automakers understand this and are focused on developing new forms of safety, entertainment, and information in vehicles—and making our cars true extensions of our digital lives. To stay ahead, companies like Ford, General Motors, BMW, Renault-Nissan, and Volkswagen have opened up offices in and around Silicon Valley. By being closer to the engineers who are developing the technology and working more closely with companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google, these brands hope to better integrate computing power into the automobile. Richard Wallace, the director of transportation systems analysis at the Center for Automotive Research told the Washington Post in January 2013, “It is a brave new world, and, obviously, a lot of that telecommunications and app-making skill set lies outside of the auto industry.” He added, “It is a logical link for the Silicon Valley companies to start playing in that.”

3. Mobile Appeal

In 2013, more than 30% of visits to Jumpstart’s sites came from a mobile device. Auto brands are responding by consistently spending more on digital advertising. According to a June 2013 eMarketer report, “continued strong growth puts the U.S. auto industry on track to become the second-biggest spender in paid online and mobile media by 2015, surpassing the financial services industry.” Auto brands are also helping their customers stay connected by equipping more of their models with 4G LTE, which allows customers to connect devices—up to several at a time—to high-speed wireless.

The Bottom Line

Our time is better spent figuring out habits and interests rather than trying to appeal to an age group. Because, no matter what you choose to call them, they are smart, hardworking, and do not fit neatly into one demographic.

The brands that stay true to a quality product, ahead of the innovation curve, and offer competitively priced models are more likely to create a lasting impression with them today and have a strong relationship with them tomorrow.

For more on how to reach these young auto shoppers, download Jumpstart's latest report.

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