I am from the Millennial generation with big news: I’m here to help you!
In case you haven’t heard already, we are 77 million strong, and now represent 24 percent of the United States, making us the largest generation in human history. We will soon – if not already – make up the majority of your workforce, pool of potential leaders, stakeholders, customers, donors and supporters.
I am writing to help your efforts in marketing to my generation. I don’t want marketers to continue to make mistakes when trying to reach us. There are hundreds of stereotypes about the Millennial generation that may or may not be useful to marketers. In fact, they may lead marketers into making some pretty expensive mistakes.
I want to start with two important points that should inform all of your efforts to reach us: Number 1: We value individuality. This can be seen in the political stances we take, the clothing we wear and the gateways through which we express ourselves on (Instagram, YouTube, etc.). What I am trying to say is this: we are not all the same and we certainly do not all have the same goals.
Number 2: We have grown up with the internet and were socialized through social media. We aren’t afraid of multimedia; we are intrigued by it. Think about the concept of Snapchat and then ask yourself, ‘How can I use that to communicate to this generation of consumers?’ The answer is: Make it quick and include a picture. Better yet, just make it a video. These videos can also be used in newsletters as well as press releases. It’s time to get creative.
There are countless resources and tips out there to tell you how to reach us or how to engage us. What I think would be more helpful at this stage is to tell you what not to do first. Here is a list of things that you should not do if you are looking to attract Millennials:
5 Actions to Avoid When Marketing to Millennials:
- DO NOT assume that we won’t read anything that’s more than 140 characters.
If it hits on a personal or professional interest then we will read it. We are no different than anyone else in that we skim the headlines, only stopping to read those that interest us. But you better have a good story to tell because with social media comes a multitude of headlines that surface throughout the day. We do have a touch of A.D.D. because of the amount of information that is constantly thrown at us. Remember, our daily dose of headlines and advertisements are not limited by the number of pages in a newspaper.
On that note, don’t be afraid to tell a story. We are known to ask a lot of questions. I came across a quote by Pixar Studio’s Andrew Stanton that epitomizes my generation: “Don’t give them 4, give them 2+2.” By that he means, share the journey, not just the end.
Videos are some of the best ways to tell these short stories. The best examples of this are used by Elite Daily and Insider. Both of these media outlets are created by Millennials, who are sharing content meant for other Millennials. Most of this is done through short videos with guided subtitles. The video topics range from innovative products, to inspiring people, beautiful travel destinations or even exotic foods. These videos and articles are shared worldwide by Millennials, across social platforms. In addition, some stories that go viral are picked up by national news stations and popular magazines.
- #hashtags are not a secret language. They have a purpose. A powerful purpose if used correctly.
Placing“#” in front of the name of your company really does not do much, unless you do your part and use that hashtag on your channels to promote a campaign, product or cause. Hashtags have changed the way we use Twitter and other social media sites. Not only have they become a way to categorize content but they also drive engagement. In fact, Tweets that use a link and a hashtag have the highest engagement rates compared to just text or an image. Hashtags are also a great listening tool for major events and trending topics across all channels. If you are going to begin to use hashtags – which you should – make sure there is a purpose, whether you are recycling a hashtag or creating your own. And please keep it simple, there is no need to hashtag every single word in a post.
- Diversity does not scare us.
We look at the world through a global perspective and have very open minds when it comes to race and ethnicity. In fact, the ethnic profile of a Millennial is far more blended than any of those from previous generations. We are team players who expect to walk into a room of all types of people. Diversity of both race and gender is a given. When marketing to the Millennial it is more important to have diversity of thought rather than diversity of person.
- Don’t make your communications feel like an advertisement
More and more we are finding ways not to see advertisements. Most of us don’t even watch television shows when they air because we can record them and skip the commercials. Streaming is also huge with Millennials, to the extent that most of us don’t even have cable. We simply stream all of our shows or watch them on Netflix and other online platforms. It is time to get more creative, marketers.
Recently, L’Oreal created a sponsored Snapchat lens that actually gives you the ability to virtually try out eyeliner, mascara, foundation, blush and a lip color. Similar to the other lenses when you raise your eyebrows even more happens. For the L’Oreal ad when you raise your eyebrows, camera lights flash behind you and the L’Oreal logo shows up in the corner. The brilliant thing about this ad is that originally no one knew it was an ad. Others that have used these Snapchat filters include Taco Bell and T-Mobile. This shows creativity and good use of multimedia, while creating shareable content. The more a tactic like this doesn’t feel like a promotion, the more we will pay attention.
- Don’t assume that the answer to everything having to do with Millennials will come from your social media posts.
It is true that we make up the majority of those using social media and that we are significantly more likely to be early adapters of new social and mobile tools. It is also true that we Millennials use and think about social media tools in a very different context then most Boomers and GenXers. With that said, don’t put all of your marketing efforts on social platforms. Traditional media still exists and it does have an impact with us. You could put all of your money into a fancy video that you plan to post on YouTube. You can share it on all of your social channels, but if the content is not perfection or you have not already built relationships with the intended audience, you have wasted those marketing dollars.
It is better to focus on your content and what you have, and then let us share it on social media platforms. After all we do make up the majority of individuals using social, and we’re pretty good at it. Some of the most successful brands actually use their consumers as marketing agents. What you can do is build and leverage that relationship, come up with outstanding content, then let us do the sharing. This can be in the form of contacting a blogger or reaching out to those many media outlets run by Millennials and seeing if your content is share worthy.
As the Millennial Principle I will be your ambassador to the strange and wonderful universe in which my people live. There are 80 million that populate this kingdom. What are you waiting for?
Send me your comments, questions, advice or criticism on this blog.
Danielle Murray heads the Millennial Principle team.