I’m a millennial so technically, I should be anti-marketing to the core. I am looking forward to the day when intrusive advertising has gone the way of the dodos. But, I should come clean, I’m also passionate about communication. I’m a brand person. I see the future of marketing, and it’s a banner-ad-free, popup-free, content-rich, web series-filled , experience-over-product, exchange-over-push, emoji-filled heaven.
So, you want a piece of this millennial pie. The truth is that you don’t really have a choice here – you either shift with the generation or your results will suffer. The time to connect with millennials is yesterday: “The millennial mindsets account for up to 50 percent of a brand’s performance. ” Leah Swartz from How to Identify New Growth Potential with the Millennial Mindset®
Not to mention: “the Millennial generation is larger than the Baby Boomer generation and three times the size of Generation X.” Greg Petro from Millennial Engagement And Loyalty — Make Them Part Of The Process
Here’s what you need to know before we jump into a ‘Marketing to Millennials’ crash course: Just as the Millennials’ purchase power is increasing, so is their skepticism. The traditional forms of marketing that worked 10, 5 or even 1 year ago aren’t doing the trick. Your audience is looking for thrill, for connection, for entertainment. They aren’t looking to be told what to buy, they have Google, their friends’ testimonials and celebrity endorsement instagram feeds to turn to. This definitely makes your job more difficult – but by no means impossible. If you want Millennials to buy-in to what you have to offer, you need to switch your mindset from sale to share, from transaction to relationship. So, the trick to Marketing to Millennials? Don’t try so hard, just be cool, man. Or, more specifically:
Here are 6 Ways You Can Connect with Millennials in a Meaningful Way:
First of all – Lead with emotion.
You want to market to Millennials – start by dropping the ‘market to’ and instead ‘connect with’. This goes hand in hand with not constructing your message based on trends. They want authentic conversations. You can’t be authentic if you don’t know what you care about. And you definitely can’t talk about things you care about if all you talk about is the product you’re selling. Share real stories. Become emotionally involved in your offering. Meet on common, human ground. Show the good and bad. Your imperfections are so much more compelling.
Take a cue from Samantha Jayne, art director turned millennial poet. She’s tackled the marketing of her book Quarter Life Poetry with ads that are real, human and frankly a little cringe-worthy, in the best way possible.
Take off that silly-ass hat.
(That’s a Chris Rock reference – any millennials out there feel me?)
Connecting with millennials isn’t about adding process, adding layers, adding makeup and glitz to your already crafted and spruced marketing efforts, it’s about removing the layers and exposing your true intentions. Millennials are looking for authenticity. They’ve been inundated with marketing their whole lives, they’re immune to manufactured sales pitches. They’re looking for honest and personal. They’re looking for companies who are willing to strip away the layers and get real. You need to be willing to expose yourself if you want your marketing to connect with Millennials. (Don’t worry, I’m not talking nude selfies.)
By the way, this want for ‘real’ goes for news sources as much as it does for entertainment: “43% of millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news. ” Dan Schawbel from 10 New Findings About The Millennial Consumer.
Want to be seen as a trusted source for Millennials? Emphasize emotions, share your opinions, don’t overproduce. Try a sense of humor on for size. Don’t feel you need to rush into over-sharing, a little transparency goes a long way.
Sometimes the silly ass hat you’re wearing is a social media platform that just doesn’t fit. I know it’s tough to keep up with all the social avenues available to you out there. Not all of us can be DJ Khaled on Snapchat. Here, let me lift a weight off your shoulders, you don’t need to be everywhere, you don’t need to do it all. All the social platforms, they are part of the costume that companies put on in an effort to impress millennials – if the platform isn’t right for you, it’s going to be blatantly obvious to your audience and your attempts to connect will come off as forced.
Quit trying to make yourself look cool, go back to being yourself. Stop trying so hard to be what you think people want you to be. Go with the platforms that suit you.
Don’t assume anything.
Creating marketing efforts based on what you think the person on the other end wants to hear is a sure recipe for disaster. People smell your targeting from miles away. Millennials especially are skeptical AF. You need to speak directly to them. Really, actually. Engage them in conversations on topics of interest. Get to know them and understand what irks them. Deeply understand what problem your product or service is fixing.
Entertain like you mean it.
Millennials are cynical about marketing and ridiculously savvy. If you want them to look past the fact that they’re being targeted long enough to actually absorb your marketing message – you better be making the whole transaction an enjoyable one.
P.s. This goes a long way towards the whole “make it go viral” thing.
P.p.s. Viral isn’t something you can actually control but you can set your audience up for enjoyment and when people enjoy, they share.
So, how do you connect millennials to your company while still entertaining them?
1. Support entertainment they already love by sponsoring it! The trick here is to be sure you don’t just sponsor based on biggest millennial reach. You need to connect your company with people and events that you also care about – otherwise, you’ll come off as phoney and completely out of touch. Think Hillary Clinton with her hot sauce reference. Eww.
A perfect example of this working is Squarespace’s sponsorship of all your favorite podcasts. Or their incredibly beautiful project with the #1 Dude, Jeff Bridges.
2. Create content that entertains. This requires a serious investment of time, energy and care. Remember to create content that focuses on common values and interests. Do your research, then do some more. Create content that makes your audience’s lives better. Add value, teach them, make them laugh. Can’t say this enough but, just be real.
Check out this incredible fitspiration content campaign by Nike called #BetterForIt (which included a webseries, challenges, a workout series and some characters you could really get behind and support). The point wasn’t to sell products, it was to connect with their audience and enrich their lives through entertainment (and then, ya, sell products).
The last thing to keep in mind when marketing to millennials is this: you expect them to support your company, consider what you’re giving them in return. You shouldn’t be asking yourself how you will get them to buy, you should be asking: “How are we adding to their lives? How are we supporting their individuality, values, interests, opinions, political stance?” Your marketing is no longer one sided – nobody wants to be talked at by someone who only cares about themselves. It’s a two-sided conversation, what will you be adding to it?
by Erin Willett
After years of design, creative direction and brand strategy for start-ups, Erin knows the power of a strong identity – especially during those pivotal growth phases – or those moments when you’re trying to get noticed by a new market. She blends a marketing mindset with a knack for relationship building and a love of individuality to coach you towards confident ownership of your niche.
Erin has coached dozens of companies through tricky transition points: entering new markets, facing increasing pressure from competition, growing their teams and connecting with new audiences. The key is always their brand.
She splits her time supporting start-ups through their identity and brand development, helping teams develop spaces for creativity, and pursuing passion project after passion project with her network of collaborators. All in an effort to further her mission: to help companies connect authentically so they can build happy teams, engaged audiences and thriving communities.