Digital Marketing: A Modern Day Balancing Act


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After decades of Baby Boomer dominance, Millennials are becoming the main force in the economy, with Generation Z following closely behind. Millennials alone comprise over a quarter of the U.S. population, and members of Gen Z are on track to make up 40% of U.S. consumers by 2020. Tapping these huge population segments are key to the success of any business, but marketing to these groups is more complex than ever before.

Online Privacy: a Growing Concern

Relying heavily on the internet and social media, Millennials and Gen Z are known to comparison shop, research products, and purchase almost everything. As a result, companies have embraced digital marketing as a key driver of growth, investing heavily in banner ads, email blasts, and targeted advertising. However, widely-publicized privacy breaches and changing marketing consumption methods are impacting the way Millennials and Gen Z view digital marketing.

Repeated security breaches such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal have made Millennials and Gen Z more defensive about their online privacy. Here at Clever Real Estate, we commissioned a marketing survey of 18-to-24 year olds and discovered that although young adults are more likely to be influenced by online advertisements than other generations, they are uncomfortable with how their digital profiles are being exploited for marketing: 77% of Millennials reported concern with Facebook’s use of their data, and 85% find remarketing campaigns “creepy or annoying” when ads follow them around the internet. A survey by marketing firm InSkin Media showed that when shown an ad five or more times, consumers’ primary emotional response becomes anger and annoyance.

Companies with digital marketing strategies must keep this concern in mind when targeting these sensitive groups. Although it’s important to reach your targeted customers, pursuing strategies that seem to use personal data can backfire and result in negative sentiments towards your product. No one likes to be followed around a store by a pushy clerk; why would digital natives want to be followed around the web by the digital equivalent?

Authenticity is Key

Online privacy concerns are not the only factor online marketers must consider to craft effective campaigns. Millennials and Gen Z have finely tuned preferences for advertising that many companies struggle to match. Both groups report unfavorable views regarding digital ads, but Gen Z especially has negative feelings regarding many types of digital advertising. While digital marketing can be the holy grail for reaching targeted customers with ads, making those ads effective is a whole different story.

Given this negative environment, many online marketing campaigns are fighting an uphill battle to attract unreceptive consumers. However, some companies have seen huge success targeting Millennials and Gen Z: Denny’s and Wendy’s Twitter accounts are prime examples of successful online marketing, striking an authentic yet humorous tone that appeals to these young generations. However, we’ve also seen plenty of embarrassing attempts by companies trying too hard to “relate” to younger generations: think poorly implemented memes and cringy use of slang.

What are some takeaways from this information? Digital marketing is a double-edged sword. With almost every American using the internet, online marketing is an unbeatable strategy to reach huge populations of potential consumers. However, with rising privacy concerns and picky ad preferences, companies must pay special attention to not come off as creepy, invasive, or cringy. Badly crafted online campaigns can backfire and become the subject of social media ridicule: a fate no company wants to experience. This is really just common sense; keep a respectable distance, be authentic, and respect private information. In the end, Millennials and Generation Z aren’t that different from everyone else.

Ben Mizes
Ben Mizes is the co-founder and CEO of Clever Real Estate, a real estate tech startup. A serial entrepreneur, Ben ran several successful startups before Clever Real Estate. Ben's writing has been featured in Yahoo Finance, Realtor News, CNBC, and BiggerPockets.


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