Millennials and the importance of user-centred content

Felicity Wild
Monday 18 April 2016

Who are the millennials?

Millennials, sometimes referred to as Generation Y, are those born between 1980 and 2000.

Having come of age in a time of massive technological change and economic disruption, millennials are very different to previous generations.

The first generation to have grown up with the internet, they are digital natives and embrace social networking and new technology. However, they generally have less disposable income than their parent’s generation, are more likely to be in debt and face a tough employment market. 2016-03-25 16-24-06

Burdened with debt and a lack of stable career prospects, millennials have a different set of priorities from previous generations and are not so focused on big commitments like marriage and home ownership. For more stats on Gen Y, see Goldman Sachs’ millennial data story. 2016-03-25 16-25-55

Despite their financial woes, millennials make up a huge portion of the economically active population. So why are companies having such a difficult time working out how to sell to them?

Simply put, millennials hate advertising.

As a demographic they are are voracious content consumers and research has shown that on an average day they can be bombarded with upwards of 5,000 adverts (mostly online).

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This overexposure means they have finely tuned marketese detectors and are not convinced by sales pitches used in traditional advertising which they perceive as “trying too hard”.

Instead, they prefer to be engaged in thought provoking and meaningful ways.

For many brands and organisations, this can mean a complete overhaul of marketing strategy, and a move away from traditional styles of advertising if they want to engage a millennial audience.

What is meaningful content?

Meaningful content is user-centred i.e. that in which the user finds value. This is the content that will be shared on social media and keep audiences reading right down to the comments section at the end.

So how do you develop it?

The digital communications team’s approach to user-centred design is a good starting point.

As Paul Boag explains:

Every digital project we undertake as an institution must start with the user’s need. The digital products and services we offer have to fulfil a user need. We cannot just build them because of internal processes or organisational directives.

This principle can and should be extended to content curation and development too.

When designing digital products our teams starts with user personas, so it could be useful for marketers to start here too. This will also capture the variation within the millennial demographic (18 year-olds have very different wants, needs and interests to 30 year-olds).

Once you have developed your personas, you can start to work out what content would interest them and how to catch their attention.

Always keeping in mind that it is what your audience wants to know, rather than what you want to say, that is the most important.

This is a principle that we have applied when writing content for the new digital postgraduate taught course descriptions, and one that we will similarly apply when developing the undergraduate course pages too.

The proof of the pudding will be in the analytics once these pages are live, something that we will report on in due course.

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