Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Skeptical Digital Natives

Millennials have been labeled “Digital Natives.” Nielsen reports that 62% own a smartphone. According to eMarketer, close to 90% of the class of 2016 will own a smartphone by the time they graduate. They also conveyed Millennials attitudes are shifting – they are becoming more and more skeptical towards mobile ads.

Read On:
Take a walk on any college campus this fall and you will observe “Digital Natives” surgically attached to their mobile phones. They are constantly engaging with friends via phone or text messaging, plus accessing the internet for information (everything from related class work, products/pricing, events, etc.). Thanks to the increased computing power, portability and affordability of smartphones (including tablets); mobile devices have gained popularity versus lugging around laptops. Mobile marketers recognize campuses are representative of what our future mobile world will look like. Consequently they are constantly testing creative mobile advertising. However, to their surprise they are running into some resistance, a new breed of Millennials I label as “Skeptical Digital Natives.” A study at one major Midwestern university indicated that close to 7 out of 10 students were annoyed by mobile ads. The primary ads fielded were text ads at 72.4%, followed by ads linked to the internet 36.6%. Overall, in addition to being annoyed, 44.2% of the respondents indicated they were less likely to purchase products/services. Sounds like a great marketing challenge. “Skeptical Digital Natives” solutions:

1. Fun, engaging videos, with bomb CTAs (call to actions) that students will share.

2. Instant redeemable coupons.

3. Personalized email. According to the latest Mobile Email Opens Report for the first half of 2012, the number of emails opened on mobile devices reached 36 percent, up from 27 percent since the second half of 2011. They project that the open rates will jump to 50 percent within one year and will eventually reach a point where mobile email opens will exceed desktop email opens.

4. Incorporate a gamification element like SCVNGR.

Your mobile marketing solutions welcomed.


  1. I will only say that my 20 year old college junior daughter primarily uses text or IM. Email? Not so much. Telephone? Hardly at all. Her information is totally crowdsourced, since she would click on an ad link to save her life. Jus sayin'

  2. I wonder why anyone would find these results surprising - after all, just because they use a new technology medium doesn't mean that they'll be any less annoyed by being bombarded by ads.

    People use smartphones to text, share, play, and get info - not to read ads.

    In the end, we'll all discover that Millenials aren't Martians, but merely tech-savvy versions of ourselves.

  3. I have quite a bit of experience here w/my students. 100% of them have smartphones in my class so the 62% changes based on Lifestyle/Income. The reason they get annoyed at advertising is 100% about relevance. So, you are correct. But your points apply to everyone actually. Don't annoy people and match expectations of what they think they will receive from you.

    Last point I've said before: It isn't that Millennials are not loyal. They just need a reason to be loyal.