Cringe-Worthy Attempts to Market to Millennials

Opinion: Let’s look at some of the biggest marketing fails when targeting millennials

Targeting a particular generation in an advertising campaign is not a new strategy, especially with millennials. This generation has been fodder for negative stereotyping and endless jokes.

Whether these stereotypes are fitting is negotiable. What isn’t up for debate is this generation’s immense spending power of more than $200 billion annually. Numbers like these understandably make this age demographic a coveted audience for marketers, although not many succeed in acquiring this thrifty audience.

The majority of the millennial generation has grown up in a world inundated with flashy advertising sometimes just five inches from their face on mobile screens. Reportedly, 74 percent of this generation spends at least five hours per week engaged with online content, according to Content Science Review.

This onslaught of media has massively desensitized millennials to any traditional advertising strategies. As a result, marketers have turned to unconventional or informal ways to engage with millennials without selling something outright. However, mastering a strategy that caters to this demographic is more uncommon than not.

Let’s look at some of the biggest marketing fails when targeting millennials to see what went wrong so that your brand doesn’t have the misfortunate of repeating these mistakes.

Chevy understands the millennial lifestyle

Millennials are often oversimplified as one cohesive group of trendy, bearded, purple-haired hipsters with their smartphones permanently attached to their palms. This description is only fitting for a small percentage of the 75 million people who make up this generation.

This generation includes a diverse range of races, cultures and ages. In fact, it is one of the most diverse generations to date. According to research by the Brookings Institution, millennials—those between the ages of 18 and 34—are 55.8 percent white and almost 30 percent “new minority,” which includes Asian, Hispanic and those of two or more races.

Furthermore, the nomadic, freelance lifestyle that millennials live reportedly only describes 26 percent of millennials, making them the stark minority.

Thus, it’s easy to see how a car company aiming a commercial at such a large demographic ends up buying into these generational stereotypes. While the ad concludes with the Chevy marketer jokingly tossing away the cheesy ideas, in the end, this does nothing to lift the reductive portrayal of millennials.

AudienceBoom CEO Jason DeMers said, “It’s also a good idea to avoid targeting the millennial audience as a general niche. Instead, narrow your engagement by targeting highly specific niche audiences and interacting with your users on an individual level whenever possible.”

Chevy’s commercial was so heavily panned by audiences that even a parody version was made.

The lesson we learned from Chevy’s marketing fail: Figure out how your product might fit into their generational experience. Millennials, more than any other generation, have absorbed more knowledge about more diverse cultures and seen more places (even if through a computer screen) on opposite ends of the world. As a result, this is a generation that loves to find new experiences.

A better way for Chevy to market its car to millennials would have been to create roadmaps of various cross-country road trips for people looking for summer vacation activities. This extra touch would provide the value of a new experience to millennials all while advertising the car as the best option to take them on this experience.

Hillary wants to talk about it in three emojis or less

This attempt to engage with a generation that mainly spans from 18 through 34 is not easy to take seriously.

First, Hillary Clinton’s marketing team misunderstands the role that emojis and other digital multimedia play in online conversations.

While many enjoy expressing a mood with a GIF or any emoji, a discussion on student loan debt isn’t commonly a place where one would insert emojis.

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