Known for their love of selfies, social media and smartphones, Millennials are often portrayed to be entitled and selfish. But are Millennials really all that bad, or are they just misunderstood? In Australia, there are approximately 5.5 million Millennials and by 2018 they’ll have the most spending power of any generation. Sounds like an important demographic for brands to start understanding and speaking to… in their language.

The generation we call ‘Millennials’, a term widely thought to be coined by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, were born in the early 1980s through to the mid-1990s, and are currently aged between 18-34. The exact range of birth years is slightly lenient, depending on whose research you read, but the definitions of the generation hold true.

Millennials range from recent high school graduates through to thirty-somethings with established careers and kids. In their research, Nielsen breaks Millennials into two smaller subgroups ‘Younger Millennials’ (aged 18-27) and ‘Older Millennials’ (28-mid 30s) to help differentiate behaviours due to age.

Millennial attitudes, experiences and influences are vastly different to preceding generations. The Millennial generation is more ethnically diverse and socially conscious thanks to globalisation and access to international travel. They’ve lived through the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 which encouraged many to take their career in their own hands and pursue entrepreneurship, rather than being solely reliant on others to create their own success. Millennials have wholeheartedly embraced social media and their social media channels are now their main sources of news, opinions and debate. Their smartphone is an extension of themselves – they average 177 minutes a day on it, and they demand seamless customer experiences from brands via it 24/7. From online shopping while waiting for a friend to booking holidays while on the bus commute to work, they can do it all from their smartphone.

The formative years of Millennials lives are shaping their purchasing motivations and behaviours. Despite a reputation for being over-confident and self-centred, Millennials are family oriented and somewhat conservative. They are anxious about this world of global uncertainty we live in – terrorism, global warming and politics are all issues that Millennials rank high on the list of their worries. Their parents feature high on the list of those people Millennials trust, along with their family, themselves and their friends. They trust recommendations from their networks when it comes to purchases, whether it be through word of mouth or through social media reviews – a big opportunity for brands.

Many Millennials feel having a mortgage or owning a property is unattainable. Instead, they look to brands to help them get ahead in life and look for opportunities to make their own success. So, when it comes to spending money, Millennials collect experiences rather than material assets. Gone are the days when buying a house or a car were a top priority, this generation wants experiences, like eating out, trying new places, sports and ultimately buying things that they can share and tell others about. Instagram feeds have filled and cafés have gone crazy with Millennials trying to get the perfect snap of the food craze of the moment. We’ve seen rainbow bagels, donuts as big as your head and milkshakes to make even the sweetest sweet tooth baulk at finishing. Sharing their experiences via social media is good for their social status and alleviates their fear of missing out.

Above all, of utmost importance to Millennials is the notion of truth. This is key to marketing to Millennials. Millennials demand the truth from brands and the words “I don’t trust you” are the most damaging words a brand could hear from this generation. Millennials are seeking authenticity from brands and have little patience with being ‘sold’ to or interrupted. Millennials can easily sniff out bullshit. They have technology at their fingertips and can source information on brands, ingredients, benefits and price at the swipe of a touch screen – immediately proving or disproving the credibility of a marketing message.

So how should brands speak to Millennials? First of all, forget the hard sell. Successful brands tell and share their stories. They stop interrupting what people are interested in and become what people are interested in. Many brands are engaging social media influencers who Millennials have a ‘relationship’ with via social media and have come to like and trust through following them online. An influencer can reach a much wider pool of consumers via their blogs and social networks than your brand may be able to.

Additionally, as digital natives, Millennials are quick to comment, review and share through their social networks, so make your campaigns share worthy through social media and word of mouth. This generation are connected, they love sharing and collaborating.

Ultimately, Millennials are searching for honest and authentic experiences. They’re an educated generation with a wealth of information and networks at their fingertips. In the global world they live in, they are spoilt for choice when it comes to brands. At the end of the day, it will be the savvy brands that help create unique experiences which will win their trust and business.