Be social (but probably not in a way you think)
No self-respecting brand needs to be told that social media is important, or that it needs to be used regularly: The Deloitte survey indicated that half of all consumers believe that brand engagement efforts on social media help them feel “informed” and “connected to” that business, or that it helped them form a “positive impression” of said business.
The issue is often more a matter of execution than anything else. We’ve all cringed at how some companies use Twitter and Facebook. They come across like a lame dad trying to seem cool in front of his teenager’s friends: they misuse slang, they misjudge their own appeal, and they come off looking foolish. There is even a page to ridicule the worst out there.
So instead of trying to draw them in with thinly disguised propaganda about your company, interact with them. Netflix are particularly proficient at effective social media engagement: they employ a casual, relatable tone that appeals to their target audience without being too familiar or ingratiating. Always’ famous #LikeAGirl campaign subverted gender stereotypes to empower its audience, perfectly pitching its message to a target group at a time in their lives when they are at their most outspoken.
Millennials aren’t likely to go hunting out a company’s social page unless it makes particularly outstanding content, just as they’d never buy a magazine dedicated to Nutella or Crown Paints. They want to interact with brands on their own terms. So instead of committing time and money to creating a dedicated brand page on Facebook, it might be better to identify the key opinion leaders and work with them to champion your brand. You could also consider embedding your content in an ad-break on a YouTube channel that you know is already widely watched by your target audience. After all, it’s far easier to be seen when someone is already looking at you.
62% of millennials respond more positively to messaging that helps them solve ‘unique, every day problems’. A further 64% said they respond more positively to messaging that reflects their cultural interests (sport, music, etc.). You don’t have to go very far to see this reflected in real life: Red Bull, for example, are associated with extreme sports, but they only sell energy drinks and merchandise. If you’re clever about it, it’s perfectly possible to expand your company’s horizons without overextending its capabilities. Worth noting however, that Red Bull has taken 20 years to build up this level of recognition and have legitimacy in this space. It will take more than a video of someone riding a BMX with a Hello Kitty sticker on it for that brand to be associated with the world’s top athletes.
So we recommend to start conversations, listen carefully and tell them stories – find out what’s bugging them, when it’s bugging them and find out how you can help. Above all, be interesting. During the 2016 Rio Olympics Nike hit a homerun with their ‘Unlimited’ campaign which managed to be inspiring, comical and speak to people on a personal level all at the same time. Nike used this content to engage millions of people in one go but appear as though they were talking to the viewer individually. They looked at what consumers wanted from them, not what they wanted to tell the consumer.
It bears repeating: millennials can see through marketing. You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars filming Matthew McConaughey talking to a bull – and it almost certainly costs hundreds of thousands of dollars – but don’t expect much return on your investment.
This generation is very big on authenticity: they know that most products, services, and companies come with certain benefits and flaws, and they prefer to be aware of them in advance. The VW emissions scandal wasn’t just offensive because people care a great deal about carbon dioxide levels; it was offensive because they tried to get away with something and broke their customers’ trust.
So be authentic. When you admit your flaws, it’s disarming and charming. Marketing didn’t start out as the art of BS: the very first advertisers made every effort to communicate simply, directly, and honestly. In the 19th century, Wanamaker’s department store concluded one ad for neckties thusly: “They’re not as good as they look, but they’re good enough. 25 cents.” Another ended like this: “The price is monstrous, but that’s none of our business.”
But here’s the thing: this strategy worked. When the company said it had a lot of rotten gossamers and things it wanted to get rid of, it published an ad saying “we have a lot of rotten gossamers and things we want to get rid of” – and they all sold out within hours.
More recently, drinks manufacturer Oasis employed the tactic of honesty with great success. Their summertime ads featuring slogans such as: ‘It’s summer. You’re thirsty, we’ve got sales targets’, which were backed up by an active and on-tune social media team, were a huge hit.
Consumers appreciated the honesty, and they always have. If you have a sustainability problem, admit to it – and say that you’re working on making the necessary improvements. If you’re second best, turn it to your advantage, as Avis traditionally has in the face of its main competitor’s near-total market dominance.
Millennials are bombarded by thousands and thousands of overpromising, self-serving marketing material – so simply admitting that you’re less than perfect often comes across as refreshing and candid.
Let your customers do the talking
Alternatively, think about opening the floor to different voices. 70% of millennials are more likely to trust peer endorsements than celebrity endorsements, and a further 89% trust their family and friends over brands themselves. Online reviews by bloggers with a reasonable following can be very advantageous: they offer a sense of unvarnished truth, conveyed with no particular agenda, and accountable to no corporate paymaster. Send your products to these influencers, and don’t pressure them to provide you with a positive endorsement: if millennials see people interacting with a brand, they’re generally more inclined to interact with it themselves – even if the final review is somewhat mixed. Take it from us, getting brand advocates to do the talking can result in huge awareness increase and thus demand, at very little cost.
Finally, co-create with end users: 84% of millennials claim that user generated content at least somewhat influences what they buy.
Burberry, for example, saw ecommerce sales rise by 50% year-on-year after launching its “Art of the Trench” website, which allowed users to upload and comment on pictures of people wearing their products. Coke managed to get people to share photos of its products just by putting names on its cans, and apple got more people to buy their phones by launching a campaign of all the photos taken by iPhone 6 users to display how the quality camera can turn anyone into an artist.
Break down the barriers and give millennials the opportunity to talk about, interact with, and discuss your brand: they’re often more willing to do so than you might think.
Case study– Dollar Shave Club
Dollar Shave Club (DSC) understand interacting with millennials better than many others. They knew their industry, they knew their audience, they knew their message, they knew what was annoying about the other options out there – and they put this knowledge to good use.
In 2012, the company posted its launch video to YouTube. Featuring their CEO, a man in a bear suit, and a random warehouse employee, it conveyed DSC’s unique offering and their David vs Goliath status with a confident, cocky, self-effacing style that at once communicated its message and entertained its audience. It included note-perfect pop culture references; it highlighted the value of its product; with a production price tag of $4,500, it undercut the self-important slickness of conventional advertising (the CEO miserably fails to pull off every cool move that he attempts; in the final ‘money shower’ scene, the cash only rains with the help of a leaf blower). And, most importantly, it cut to the core frustration of the user; that they felt they were being asked to regularly pay mind bogglingly high sums of money for replacement blades and that they didn’t have another option.
The millennial audience rewarded DSC for this bold approach – with 12,000 signups in the first two days, and over 23m views as of this writing. By putting their video on social media – used by 90% of those between 18-29 – and tailoring it to their target demographic, they cultivated a large online following and directly boosted their value as a company; in 2016, after more similar marketing efforts in this vein, they were acquired by Unilever for $1 billion.
DSC understood the new paradigm of communication, where every share is an endorsement and every ‘like’ a tacit nod of approval: it created an audience willing to communicate a message on the company’s behalf.
Winning the generation game
To understand the psychology of millennials is to understand their conditions: no culture is born in a vacuum. Just as the ‘Greatest Generation’ were shaped by their experiences in WWII, so too were the baby boomers shaped by the relative prosperity of the post-war period.
Millennials have been shaped by the twin forces of economic regression and technological progression: the old world is receding further and further into the distance, and they’ve had no choice but to embrace the new one. It’s caused the biggest shift in marketing history, and the sooner your brand begins making the necessary adjustments, the easier it will be to make the transition.
This won’t be easy. The aim should be to move from being an initiativedriven marketing machine using 30-second, product-pushing TV ads, to a content publishing house building authenticity and trust across multiple channels. To do so, you’ll have to become more transparent, more imaginative, more focused, more direct, and – frankly – more interesting. But with the right attitude, the right support, and the right level of commitment, you can encourage fruitful, mutually beneficial communication with this most elusive of target audiences.
To discuss your millennial marketing needs, contact Catalyx’s team of experts today.