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When we hear about the millennial generation, it is often in the form of a complaint. Over the past decade or so, millennials have been blamed for "killing" everything from fast-casual restaurant chains to the diamond industry. When it comes to weed, though, the world's biggest generational cohort is overwhelmingly in support of legalization and, despite worse financial standing than any generation before, are driving America's exploding green rush. For cannabis companies across the legal weed landscape, though, millennials can be a hard group to market to. In this article, we will break down who millennials are, explore their relationship with weed, and finally, give you a few tips to maximize your marketing reach with the elusive group.
Before we dive into marketing techniques to best target millennials, it is important to know who exactly we are talking about. And while "millennial" has become a common refrain to describe all young people, the generation is comprised of anyone born between 1981 and 1996. That means that, in 2020, millennials are 24-39 years old. Anyone in their 40s is considered a member of Generation X and anyone in their early 20s or late teens is a zoomer, or part of Generation Z.
So who are millennials? From flip phones and Myspace to Instagram and Snapchat, millennials grew up online and incredibly connected. Despite that tech nativist mindset, though, millennials have lived through some of the country's most tumultuous economic and social conditions. While market research firms have predicted that American millennials will spend some 1.4 trillion dollars in 2020, when you break that number down by the roughly 72 million millennials in the country, you get an individual spending average of just $19,444. After you factor in rent, student, loans, food, and necessities, it is clear that millennials aren't "killing" paper napkins, the NFL, or traditional dating, but have instead been generally priced out or devalued their parents' ideal minor luxuries.
While millennials are on average less well-off than their parents, the latest batch of professional-age adults is also trading the past generation's love of tobacco and booze for a widespread love affair with weed.
When the last year of millennials was born in 1996, California was already moving to legalize medical marijuana; a move that would eventually spark the country's rapidly spreading green rush. As legalization spread, millennials have grown to see cannabis as an anxiety-killing, all-natural medicinal tool and hangover-free recreational intoxicant. In a national study from 2017 that put the number of American cannabis users at 55 million, more than half of those consumers belonged to the millennial cohort.
Besides using marijuana more than their parents and grandparents, millennials are also the group of Americans most invested in legalization. According to a Pew Research survey from 2019, more than 75% of US millennials believe that cannabis should be legalized on the federal level. Thanks to the unique combination of limited spending power, high interest in weed, and huge numbers, millennials are a key demographic but can be complicated targets for marketing initiatives.
Whether it is entertainment, sports, or politics, millennials get their news and information from social media. It is important to make sure that you are posting original, organic content to your social pages across multiple platforms. High-quality photos, frequent product shots, and constant information about the goings-on and new brand developments are a key way to retain loyal consumers in an industry filled with competition.
Once you've established a presence on social media, online, and on dispensary locator sites like Where's Weed, you might think it's enough to let your product and pictures do the talking for you, but that would be a big mistake. As the name might suggest, one of the biggest factors in successful social media marketing is, well, being social. That means responding to comments, engaging with fans' pages, and answering any questions that customers might have. Constructing a real and relatable personality for your brand online and in dispensaries is a great way to keep customers loyal and coming back for more.
In addition to personality, millennials are generally drawn to experiential endeavors more than simply bags of bud on a dispensary shelf. That could mean anything from meet-ups and customer-appreciation sales to in-store sales reps at dispensaries offering discounts or free samples or collaborations and sponsorships with celebrities, skateboarders, musicians, or influencers. Linking your brand with a concert series, local marathon, and licensed consumption lounges can help reach millennials that otherwise might have overlooked your cannabis company.
Since they've been old enough to buy things, millennials have been hit with every trick, half-truth, and outright lie that advertising has to offer. From secretive ingredients in processed food to more busted electronics than a Silicon Valley thrift store, millennials are more interested in an honest marketing approach than flashy sales tactics. In the cannabis industry, that means readily disclosing how your cannabis is grown, how it is processed, and how it is packaged. Especially with the black market vape crisis still on people's minds, transparency in advertising and production will make sure you don't alienate millennial consumers.
As we discussed earlier, millennials represent the biggest group of active cannabis buyers in the country, but despite a large collective spending power, individual millennials are routinely struggling to buy what they need, nevermind what they want. And with so much competition at every dispensary in every legal weed state, offering cannabis at a low price point is a surefire way to attract millennial shoppers. For flower, that could mean offering half or full ounce bags of small buds for a discounted rate or make moderately-priced pre-rolls. Offer half gram vape cartridges instead of full grams or try selling individual edible doses instead of multi-dose chocolate bars.
Unlike their Generation X predecessors known for their endless apathy, millennial shoppers are actively engaged in social causes and direct their dollars to companies that share their values. Those socially conscious values can be directly communicated by company ownership, or, in most cases, take the form of charitable partnerships and profit shares, event and personal sponsorships, and even brand imagery and identity. Charitable endeavors are often most effective when they have a direct tie to your company or employees, but when it comes to doing good for the world - or even just your local community - putting in the effort to make a positive social change will come back to you in spades.
Have you found luck in marketing to millennials? Let us know any helpful tips in the comments below!