How can a brand get that coveted millennial nod? It's all about talking to them in their own language.
"Ever since youth culture became a defined concept, marketers have been using the unique values of youth as an ‘in’ to young consumers,” according to a study from Havas. But in the 1950s and ‘60s, that essentially meant being against authority and the establishment. But that, the study says, is no longer true of the younger generation. Millennials “have less of an interest in rebellion and revolution” and tend more toward problem-solving, the study notes.
They also have a different relationship with their products and the brands that create them, said Norty Cohen, founder and CEO of agency Moosylvania. “This is a group that will adopt brands,” he said. “If you can create a friendship with these consumers, you really take it to the next level. They will go to great lengths to support you.”
In its study, Hashtag Nation, Havas notes that this loyalty aspect is very good news for marketers: “Today’s youth are significantly more apt than their elders to recognize—and value—the role brands play in their lives.” But this can be a tricky relationship to maintain, the study notes, as 40 percent of respondents ages 16-24 complain that brands don’t take them seriously enough.
“Brands also need to recognize that they’re now dealing with a generation of consumers who are much savvier than their parents were at that age,” the study concluded. “Young people have an innate understanding of marketing and of their value as consumers. And they’re significantly more likely than older generations to believe they have the capacity to help a brand succeed or fail. And why would they think that? Virtually every day they see some evidence of the power of ordinary people to effect change, whether it’s using Twitter to foment a rebellion in the Middle East or using social media to compel a company to behave better.”
In its 2015 study, Moosylvania benchmarked qualitatively what brand characteristics mean the most to millennials.
Initially, Moosylvania's Cohen said, marketing “was all based on sort of this militaristic approach: Here is your target, blitz them with media. And now what we’re finding is they don’t want to be blitzed. … The tonality has to be in the zone of what’s on this page making people look good, keeping them entertained,” he said. “It’s all about this friendship piece.”
And how can marketers move into the friend zone? “There’s a lot of personal interaction with this demo. They’re going to look at any kind of social endorsement. TV still has a place, as do magazines.” And, he said, millennials love experiences, whether they’re in-store or app-based or video or experiential.
Innovation in this space is helping some new names into Moosylvania’s top 50 millennial brands for 2015. Macy’s was one of them. “Macy’s is doing all sorts of predictive analytics,” Cohen said, adding that Ralph Lauren is doing same. He added that their marketing is “very personalized and about making you look better, making you feel better.”
The Yahoo/DigitasLBi/Razorfish/Tumblr study included a list of tips for content marketers trying to reach this dream demo:
- Set the mood. Give them a repository for a particular emotion, or bond over a universal human experience.
- Help them escape by giving them a glimpse of the good life, inspiring them, and “reinforcing the millennial values of embracing life and finding happiness along the off-roaded path to adulthood.”
- Fuel creativity and play with absurdist mash-ups, artistic installations and carefully curated memes that are the tight fit for a brand’s attributes.
- Spotlight pop culture, especially using nostalgia nods, superfandom and celebrity musings.
- Help them succeed with how-tos, lifehacks and any content experience that makes them feel smarter.
- Help them discover things and see topics in a new light, which “taps into millennials’ desire for discovery.”