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When Marketing to Millennials, the Medium Is a Key Part of the Message

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The medium is just as important as the message when marketing to millennial investors, according to a new report from Cerulli Associates for asset managers that could just as easily apply to financial advisors.

“Younger investors need to be seen separately in marketing, so it is crucial to identify products that are more likely to appeal to them,” according to the report. “However, in marketing, some of the important differences can lie in the medium as much as the offering.”  

Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, “is an obvious route for reaching millennials,” but should not be used exclusively, according to the Cerulli report. “Young people spend nearly twice as much time reading print newspapers [as] online and app editions of news brands,” the report notes citing a study from two European universities — one in London, the other in Munich — of British millennials.

(Related: Vanguard Faces Pushback From Other Firms)

Still, when Vanguard wanted to raise its European profile after launching its online platform in the U.K. last May, it spent far more on social media than on traditional marketing, and it was able to mine data on the platform to tailor marketing to those investors.

Vanguard uses the data to help identify which investors are more likely to withdraw money during a market downturn and can then advise those clients not to overreact or direct them towards certain funds.

(Related:The Millennials Are All Right (but They Still Worry): BofA)

The report notes throughout that generalizations about millennials can be misleading. For example, although millennials tend to be more comfortable with digital platforms, the Italian robo-advisor MoneyFarm found after it had launched that the typical customer was a man in his 40s rather than a younger millennial.

Also, although it’s widely believed that millennials prefer ESG funds over others, it is not necessarily a major priority for them, reports Cerulli, citing a 2017 Legg Mason Global Asset Management report. “Markets should think twice about spending disproportionate amounts of money suggesting that such considerations are the preserve of the young,” the Cerulli report notes.

(Related: Helping Millennials Embrace Investment Risk)

Millennials, though they have less money, should also not be labeled as poor or as risk-averse. Vanguard’s U.K. platform reports that younger investors are favoring 80% or 100% equity exposure over 20%, 40% or 60% exposure available in its LifeStrategy fund, according to Cerulli.

“Marketers should not overlook the basic fact that younger investors are more able to cope with the risks of the equity market, even if they sometimes seem risk-averse.”

Marketers should also not expect that millennials, who tend to favor direct-to-consumer platforms over advisors, will also bypass advisors. “They are bypassing advisors because they are young …. As they come up to retirement, their behavior is more likely to match that of previous generations. Just as they start to reduce their equity exposure, so they will seek out advice to help with the complexities of retirement.”

— Check out What You Need to Know About Millennial Wealth on ThinkAdvisor.



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