Q&A: How Can Brands Best Market to Millennials?


Q: what’s the hot gossip on Millennials, marketing and social media? A: OMG, like, where do we start?

Two weeks ago we followed two The New York Times reports on social media influencer trends by discussing the strategy behind such strategies with Eric Dahan, CEO of influencer marketing company Instabrand.

This week brought a Gallup study claiming that paid social media ads just aren’t worth the money (to the “told you so” delight of many in advertising).

How, then, does one capture the invaluable attention of that key Millennial demographic? We recently spoke to Dave Hawley, VP of marketing at “advocate marketing solution” provider SocialChorus, to get his take.

What are companies doing wrong in trying to sell to Millennials?

The biggest mistake companies make when marketing to Millennials is to use traditional advertising channels like online banner ads that just don’t work with this group. With Millennials, it’s more effective to market with them rather than to market to them.

Millennials grew up on the Internet, and the techniques that worked on their parents and grandparents don’t work on them. We did a survey last year that found that only 6% of Millennials believe that online ads are credible. Companies that are sinking money into online ads to reach Millennials are getting very little ROI. On the other hand, Millennials are extremely focused on peer affirmation, so a marketing strategy that leverages social media influencers and peer groups can be highly effective.

What do Millennials expect/want from brands and marketers?

Perhaps because they grew up in tumultuous times, Millennials typically don’t trust institutions or corporations unless their trust is earned. They seek open communication and transparency.

Stereotypes aside, they’re also a socially conscious group, and they want to associate with those whom they perceive to be the “good guys.” Brands that can demonstrate social responsibility and a focus on other ideals this generation values tend to find favor with Millennials.

Why do you think so many miss the mark when communicating with young people?

Companies miss the mark by assuming that tried-and-true techniques from an earlier era will work with this demographic.

Our Millennials survey found that 91% of Millennials would consider buying a product if a friend recommended it. That’s an amazing opportunity if you can mobilize hundreds or thousands of your employee and customer advocates! Savvy marketers are increasingly reaching Millennials through their peer groups.

Is the “social media influencers” trend the new way of doing that?

Working with influencers can be a highly effective way to raise awareness, but to truly move the needle with Millennials, companies need to take it a step further and implement a brand advocacy strategy.

Our results show that influencer marketing combined with content from brand advocates is the most effective strategy. The key is to start with a highly curated list of influencers and complement the strategy with the right platform to manage content delivery…to scale the reach of the campaign and control messaging while leveraging their social following to address both the message control and authenticity issues.

How much does the network itself matter?

Identifying and leveraging the right channels is incredibly important. The key to effective brand advocacy is to define business objectives and build a content and communication strategy around the platforms your audience uses, tailoring content to deliver the brand message for maximum impact.

This can include content created via Vine or Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other platforms.  Success depends on harnessing the enthusiasm of people who love the brand and giving them a way to effectively spread the word in a networked ecosystem.

What is an example of a company doing it right?

At SocialChorus, we provide some of the most recognizable brands on the planet with the best practices and the platform to implement highly successful Advocate Marketing programs.

One of our customers, a global fast food company, invited millennials to Coachella to generate awareness and drive conversation to promote the launch of a new menu item. The strategy involved empowering millennials to create content with the brand and be a part of the brand through a unique shared experience.

Millennials took Instagram photos, posted stories and photos to blogs, and shared their experiences on social networks. This event alone generated over 596 thousand social engagements and over 1.2 million in advocate marketing value for the brand.

What advice would you give teams responsible for clients that want to reach this demo?

Again, the key to success in reaching Millennials is to market with them rather than to them.

Transform Millennial customers and employees into brand advocates by giving them the type of entertaining, informative content that they’ll want to share. I would also urge companies that want to engage Millennials to demonstrate alignment with the values and the channels they care about – that could mean launching a social responsibility program on Snapchat or creating funny content for Instagram.

The key is to get to know the audience and be the type of company a Millennial would want to associate with. That will begin to build an advocacy relationship with this audience.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.