Early adopters are elusive, no matter what their age. Since they prefer to discover rather than be told, they can be hyper-resistant to overt marketing tactics. But because they deliver valuable social proof that your innovation has value, they are more desirable than ever. I recently wrapped up a two-year campaign on behalf of a financial services client that engaged creative Millennials: musicians, poets, photographers, bloggers, and artists. These young early adopters between the ages of 18-30 were drawn from ninety-four markets, and they taught me invaluable lessons.

Here’s the essence of what I learned:

  1. They feel confident with ambiguity. Digitally intrepid, young early adopters can look at something unfamiliar and imagine how it works in daily life. They delight in figuring out the function or purpose. After all, anything too obvious isn’t an innovation. Feel free to bring them in pretty early, preferably a year to six months before you launch depending on your overall production schedule. And be ready to listen for their feedback because they will have lots of advice.
  2. Many share a passion for learning. Millennial early adopters earn cultural capital by sharing special knowledge. They crave learning experiences. Aim for pre-release events, sneak peeks, behind-the-scenes tours and insider salons that impart some knowledge while seeding your message in a pleasurable context. Furthermore, any skill building events or rare access to an innovation invites early adopters to gain the thrill of risk taking with your innovation. In our experience, this early intimacy helps your brand form a bond that inspires them to root for it later on in an “I knew them when” kind of way.
  3. They need a reason beyond cool. This is big. Other motivations can influence whether they find your offering attractive—such as need, life stage of the prospect (graduating college, just married, new parents), and even seasonality. Consider also that most have an affinity for only one category. That may not translate to another category unless they are able to have a few encounters with it, online or offline. To motivate your segment, craft a value proposition for the trial itself during the early research and recruiting phase. By participating in the early trial, what will the user gain from it, above and beyond insider access and a cool factor?

If you’ve had experiences working with young early adopters, I’d love to hear about it. Does your experience with courting Millennials match mine, or do you have a different point of view?