Generation Y and Health: Marketing to Millennials

This post continues our series on Generation Y and their relationship with their health. From challenges to epidemics, this series attempts to expose how these digital natives are managing health-related issues, both individually and together.

By Bob Mason (@BobMasonPalio)

Attracting the youth market is critical for protecting the future of most health care organizations. Getting a strong footing with these consumers as they grow over the decades can help increase loyalty, attract top talent and build a successful brand. Some social psychologists and culture watchers argue that the Millennial generation (individuals born 1980-2000) are different than any previous generation, claiming theyre self-absorbed and in need of instant gratification, a result of being tech-enabled practically since birth. While the access and availability to technology is certainly unprecedented, theyre really not all that different than previous generations.

Young adults demand instant gratification because theyre used to it. However, that doesnt mean theyre overlooking research and doing due diligence when making a purchase decision. Like older adults, theyre going online or using their mobile device to get information prior to making decisions they just were born expecting to be able to get that information when and where they want it.

For marketers, its a matter of understanding generational differences in online usage. For example, while the Boomers are more likely to be combing Web MDs symptom checker, Millennials or Gen Y are using social media to learn from or share experiences. As with any market segment, success is contingent on understanding how they are using these technologies, how they like to be communicated with, what motivates them and then designing messages that are relevant, meaningful and resonate with their preferences and buying habits.

With the proliferation of mobile and online technologies, Millennials are embracing interactions through community-based technologies and new media. Marketers need to keep pace with these preferences and adopt new technologies while creating an engaging customer experience. Because information is so accessible, marketers should trade hype for facts, be authentic and ensure they add value to the relationship.

Young adults in particular are embracing mobile technology, accessing online health-information on their phones. A recent Pew Internet & American Life Project survey of American adults finds that 85 percent of adults use a cell phone. Of cell phone owners:

  • 29% of cell owners ages 18-29 have conducted searches on their phone to look up health or medical information and
  • 15% of those ages 18-29 have software applications or “apps” on their phones that help them track or manage their health

However, just because this generation was practically born with technology in-hand, and are comfortable using mobile technologies, marketers should not discount the offline world. Like previous generations, young adults are likely to turn to a health professional, friend or family member when they have a health question. A Public Policy Polling survey finds more than five of every six Americans still turn to traditional lines of communication when they need specific health consultation from their own doctor. Even among Millennials (18 to 29 years old), only 21 percent said they would take advantage of an online forum if offered.

In other words, communicating with young adults is not solely about digital. To reach this group, Marketers need to embrace a multichannel marketing strategy and create compelling content and promotions. Some points to consider:

*Mom (and dad) knows best The helicopter generation has taken heat for excessive parental involvement but from a marketing perspective, its important to note that Millennials are likely to find their parents advice credible. Youve seen the cough medicine recommended by Dr. Mom? Marketers should not only target parents of Millennials, but consider capitalizing on history, praising therapeutic treatments trusted for generations and recommended by mom and dad.

*Learn the lexicon If you want to attract younger consumers, its time to forgo stuffy corporate speak and converse in more age-appropriate tones. After all, this is the generation that thinks it can be educated in 140-character sound bites. You dont need to get totally “rad in text talk, but think about the language of youth and use it when communicating with this generation.

*Get smart about the smart phone Blackberry devices, iPhones and Droids are in the hands of todays Millennials and more health-information apps are coming prepackaged with these devices. As adoption increases, make sure your online content is smartphone ready.

*Hit the streets Gen Y likes experiences, whether thats through video simulations or real-world events. Design programs that tap into their senses and create stronger bonds with your brand. Dont overlook contests and free offers that let them join in the excitement or try something new.

*Get social Target websites such as YouTube, FaceBook, and Bebo – wherever young people congregate and socialize. If you want to reach the youth market, go where the people are playing.

The Millennials want it now, and its up to you to give it to them. The tell-a-friend generation is likely to be your best brand advocate if you get it right. Let your brand be its authentic self, and reach them through their preferred modes of communication.

Also, check out previous installments from this series:

The Healthcare Revolution
The Making of the Millennial Doctor
Dealing With Depression



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