Marketing Lessons from the Class of 2015

A major life event is taking place now and in the coming weeks for thousands of families across the country as the college Class of 2015 begins their freshmen year. College is more than higher education in an academic sense; it is a phase in one’s life when they are molded intellectually, emotionally, and socially. From a marketing standpoint it is important to understand the characteristics of this segment of the population. After all, they are future customers, employees, and leaders of business.

One firm that has made its work about gaining insight into Millennials is Mr Youth, a New York agency that describes what it does as “decoding the mystery of the new consumer.” Its recent report “5 Ways to Friend the Class of 2015” identifies influences on this group’s lives and how brands should approach marketing to them. They have seen the bad - terrorism has been a constant in their lives since 9/11 and saw (and in many cases felt) the economic meltdown of 2008 first-hand, and the good- tech toys like iPods and tools like Facebook that give unprecedented connectivity. This group is a paradox in that while many suggest that technology can contribute to laziness, they also believe that they can get ahead through hard work.

An important takeaway from the study is how the Class of 2015 differs from their 2010 counterparts. Instead of an interest on brands that convey status, this year’s freshman class is more concerned with brand authenticity and relevance. Brands whose values resonate with Millennials’ personal values are more important today. The challenge that marketers face is two-fold: 1) understanding where Millennials are in terms of their values and beliefs, and 2) connecting with them in a way that brand values can be communicated in a way that builds relationships. Social media is an enabler for reaching this audience, and Millennials expect to have access to your brand. But, the tone of conversation should have less to do with marketing products than it does acting like a trusted friend.

Good luck to the Class of 2015! I look forward to having some of you in my classes one day.

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