The Nightlife Scapegoat: Marketing to Millennials

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It’s the new hot topic. The “it” generation. The scapegoat behind a declining nightlife scene. We’re talking about Millennials – the largest generation in history, accounting for 92 million people in the US alone.

Nearly every brand is dedicating resources to figure out how to best market to the Millennial generation, and nightlife is no different. This generation approaches life differently than previous cohorts, and has flipped many industries on its head. They’re not going to follow what’s always been done, so now it’s up to you to think differently and reach them in ways that make sense to them.

In my opinion, everyone is over-complicating how to market to Millennials. The Baby Boomers were the first generation to flip marketing upside down. Part of it was that there were newer marketing channels to use than were historically available, another part was that there were more people making buying decisions, and a third part was that their lifestyle was drastically different than generations before them. Sound familiar? There weren’t drastic changes between them and the Gen Xers in how they made buying decisions. But now, with Millennials, things are evolving yet again.

My number one rule for marketing is to know your audience. So what do we know about the Millennial generation? Demographically, they’re between the ages of 18-35, the prime ages to be targeting for the nightlife industry. They’re also the most diverse generation to have ever existed, making it even more important to think of them in terms of lifestyles, such as:

•   They value experiences over physical goods, and will prioritize their money accordingly.

•   They value authenticity and want to align themselves with an authentic cause. Growing up with information overload, Millennials can detect when a brand is authentic, and they’ll adjust their behaviors to support that.

•   They want to participate with a brand’s marketing and feel like they’re a part of the journey. They don’t want to be sold to, so forget about the hard sell. They don’t respond to salespeople telling them how great their products are; they rely more on social opinion than the brands messaging itself.

•   They care more about quality and are willing to pay extra for it. But on the other hand, they’re the most broke generation and live a life of debt, and are therefore more likely to evaluate if something is worth the price tag.

•   They’re the first generation of digital natives, meaning they’re always connected and rely heavily on their mobile devices. Their affinity for technology helps shape how they interact with brands.

There are a lot of aspects of the Millennial lifestyle that are beneficial to the nightlife industry and align with what nightclubs and bars have to offer. But the biggest issue I see when it comes to nightclubs and bars marketing to this generation is that they haven’t evolved in their strategies. Most are using the same messages, the same channels, and the same tactics they’ve always used. An anonymous online survey was sent out to discover why Millennials are no longer attending nightclubs, and there’s a lot of crossover between what Millennials want and what nightclubs are doing wrong.

Millennials versus nightclubs - Marketing to Millennials

When you’re trying to attract a group that cares the most about an experience, you have to realize that you’re no longer competing against other bars and nightclubs: your competition pool just opened up. Sporting events are your competition. The theater, movies, even Netflix are your competition. Traveling and vacations are also your competition. And for an age group that doesn't have as much disposable income as previous generations, they’re going to put their dollars behind experiences they actually want. After all, one Millennial interviewed in The Guardian stated, “A night out now costs almost as much as a weekend away…and a weekend away looks better on Instagram.”

That’s what you need to think about when you build out your promotions and organize your night. So how do you do this?

 

1. Create Experiences

Don’t just open your doors and pray that people walk through. Create themes for your night. Transform your space using more design elements. Use event-like thinking to market those themes. Millennials are oddly all about the nostalgia. Lean into that. ‘90s parties are great. Bring back popular artists from days off old to perform; I’ve seen those concerts do extraordinarily well. I’ve also seen more interactive experiences do really well for bars, such as mystery themes or real-life Clue where your staff is involved and more engaging with consumers that are there. We’re also seeing an increase in popularity with bar and club crawls amongst this generation. For them, it’s a way to experience more in a single night. For you, it’s a way to increase exposure.

 

2. Be Personal

Millennials air everything there is to know about their life on the internet. And as such, they expect you to know their habits and how to cater to them. They grew up with the burst of Amazon, who sends recommendations based on past habits and reminders of when you’re due to buy something based on time. Those are the personalized expectations they have of you, and they’re willing to exchange their data for more relevant marketing and personalized service.

Use a CRM system to collect information on every guest that walks through your door. With this data, you’re able to send personalized messages to drive your promotions home. Unveil big announcements to your customers before the rest of the public. Reach out to a specific audience, such as those who have a birthday coming up this week, those who attended an event in the past, or those who have spent over $100 at your bar. Whatever it is, you’re able to send a specific message to a specific audience – that’s personal. That shows you are about them and you’re ready to provide them a personalized service.

 

3. Focus on Quality

Millennials value quality over price, and are willing to pay extra for it. Luckily, we’re in the service industry and can provide quality customer service and quality experiences that make the price of going out worth it. I can say for myself, and for many of my friends, that we’d prefer to pay a few extra dollars to receive great service. If we don’t feel like we’re being offered excellent service at one venue, we’ll go down the street where we know we will, so treat your guests with great customer service from the first interaction with the bouncer all the way to the staff at the bar. Also, make sure your products are of high quality, including your food and drinks. Millennials have a knack for identifying if something is worth the price tag.

 

4. Engage on the Right Channels

Millennials are labeled the “always connected generation” for a reason. A study by Zigby Analytics confirmed 87% of Millennials say their phones never leave their side. Use text message campaigns to send direct messages to your customers. Better yet, segment who you text based on past behaviors. Use all the tools that social media has to offer, including organic posts, Facebook events, targeted Facebook ads, and custom Snapchat filters. During your night, have a staff member live stream parts of your party. Videos are one of the best ways to reach this audience, and social channels now automatically play videos in your news feed and send push notifications when someone you follow goes live. According to Facebook, the average time its users spend watching live video is three times longer than when the video is not live.

The key to your promotions is to recognize the evolving lifestyles of Millennials and change with them. History teaches us that the demand for nights out never goes away; it simply evolves. Understand who you’re marketing to, consider the lifestyles that drive them to engage with you, and live up to their expectations. That’s how you’ll stay relevant through this millennia shift.