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Millennial preferences are something I talk about often with executives. Thinking and marketing specifically to millennials (those roughly born between early 1980s and early to mid 1990s) is vital to the success of your association.Millennials are really passionate about the causes they believe in - they just get tuned into and express their commitment to those causes in new ways. The key is to engage with millennials in the ways that motivate them the most. Here are three millennial traits that when channeled successfully, mean a more-connected and happier millennial membership:

1. Millennials crave experiences. Millennials want to be part of unique experiences and they want the organizations they support to reflect that. This explains the popularity of unique, experience-based races like “color” runs (where participants are sprayed along the running route with colored cornstarch), obstacle course races, and even mud runs.

A recent Vision Critical article on engaging millennials states, “Instead of the traditional advertising route, some brands now shift their marketing dollars to events where millennial consumers can experience the brand. In 2011, Chipotle launched Cultivate, a food and music festival that attracted more than 17,000 people in its first year. The event featured live music and chefs from around the country, while incorporating educational elements that let attendees see how food is raised and grown.” Allow millennials to experience something unique with your organization to foster their loyalty and connect them with your mission at the same time.

2. Millennials make purchases that support their beliefs. For-profit brands like TOMS shoes resonate with millennials through specific charity work. TOMS “One for One” promise states that TOMS will match “every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes for a child in need.” It’s a simple premise, and one that resonates with the millennial generation. Wearing a pair of TOMS means that a child gets a new pair of shoes, who can’t get behind that?YMCAs, JCCs, and community centers all support local health, wellness and other causes. Explaining the mission in a way that is simple, straightforward, and specific on social media and on the web fosters millennial loyalty and encourages them to support the cause.

3. Millennials have diverse tastes and they value variety and customization. Along with their need to seek out authentic experiences, millennials are redefining everything to running shoes (you can design your own at nike.com) to their fitness routines.  According to MillennialMarketing.com, “millennials are an active generation that values experiences over stories,” and “Community is key.” Associations that reach out in a targeted way to specific sets of millennials will get ahead with this generation. Boutique gym-type offerings also appeal to the millennial generation. Many associations include diverse offerings from super-intense HIIT to ballet-inspired barre classes. By tracking membership types, demographics, and preferences you can send program or class offerings that might appeal to the right members.

As millennials become a larger consumer force, more research will emerge about their preferences and habits. See below for the resources used in this article as well as a few others.

Millennial Resources: http://millennialmarketing.com/2014/02/the-millennial-work-out/http://www.visioncritical.com/blog/how-engage-millennials-customer-insight-and-marketinghttp://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2014/05/01/quit-trying-to-engage-millennials/

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