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How To Engage With Millennials Successfully

It comes as no surprise that brands are struggling when it comes to engaging millennials and win their loyalty. All brands, big and small have tried relentlessly to understand what drives them, what they care about and how to best communicate with them, but not everyone is successful – at least for an extended period of time.

The Struggle Is Real

It comes as no surprise that brands are struggling when it comes to engaging millennials and win their loyalty. All brands, big and small have tried relentlessly to understand what drives them, what they care about and how to best communicate with them, but not everyone is successful – at least for an extended period of time.

Many brands ramp up efforts ahead of large-scale marketing campaigns, but once the initial uptake and interest dies down, brands often find themselves back at square one. The challenge of gaining and maintaining the interest and engaging millennials is where brands need to focus more of their efforts.

Millennials now dominate the market, topping even the baby boomer generation. As a result, it has become top of mind for any business who wishes to grow their market share and attract the next wave of consumers that they need to up the ante when it comes to engaging millennials.

The bigger brands seem to be struggling the most to sustain themselves amongst millennials when it comes to marketing efforts. Millennials are not looking to buy for luxury but for a purpose that fuels a personal connection between a product and its consumer. Millennials need to have a reason or interest in the product they are buying.

Millennials aren’t some vague, undefined market, there are some key things that speak to them and some smaller brands have capitalized on identifying what those things are. Take, for example, Clif Bars, Innocent Drinks, or Honest Tea; they’re smaller consumer goods companies that got it right when it came to engaging millennials.

They’re great examples of how speed to scale is accelerating, meaning small companies can quickly become a huge success simply by being agile and desirable to millennials. Displaying qualities like authenticity, reliability and social responsibility are what engage millennials and drive them toward to a brand.

Of course with many other high-end brands, their main goal is to attract buyers for the sole purpose of luxury and “what’s in.” Key players such as Apple and BMW are selling well simply because they’re reliable. They are not particularly “affordable” but they’re definitely selling a certain lifestyle that many want to take part in but don’t necessarily see the value. When a millennial makes a purchase, they are more interested in buying for a cause or experience, not a particular lifestyle, which is where smaller brands often succeed.

When it comes to targeting and engaging millennial consumers, using online sources is a huge asset. Many small companies are focusing on user-generated content (UGC), which includes blogs, wikis, discussion forums, tweets, or any other forms of media that were created by users of an online system or service (i.e. social media). Millennials like to feel connected to the product they are buying and if a particular product is advertising with a specific cause, millennials are more likely to engage in ways we have never seen before.

Big Things Come In Small Sizes

What’s interesting about the millennial generation’s market share, is that it is not dominated by the big brands. In fact, it’s the smaller brands that are cleverly strategizing and seizing slices of the pie and engaging with millennials, that were once considered the “home turf” of the bigger players. With smaller brands making its way through the noise, big brands are falling behind by abiding by traditional methods of advertising: commercials, billboards, magazines and newspapers with minimal effort in online advertising.

According to Harvard Business Review, over the past 4 years, 50% of the growth in the food and beverage industry has come from companies below the top 100. This is similar to many consumer goods industries worldwide. Why? Well, big brands are stuck in the past when it comes to their methods of engagement and are simply too slow when it comes to adjusting and repurposing efforts in order to best capture this target segment.

If big brands are advertising, you can often find thirty-second clips (ads) on various social media outlets like YouTube or Hulu. However, when brands advertise small clips, there is no specific target audience, it just appears to be “air time” for that particular brand. A clip played on YouTube or Hulu, despite the content of the video, will be irrelevant. This poses a big problem for high-end brands because Millennial consumers aren’t watching the ads; in fact, they’re skipping them after five seconds, nor are Millennials actively engaging with traditional TV watching or paying attention to street billboards. Added to that, there are a multitude of platforms that different types of millennials could be using, and also at different times.

Understanding what platforms they use, when they use them, and what content scores the most points with them can quickly simplify and expedite a brand’s social media marketing strategy.

Get Personal, Stay Relevant

High–end brands need to reach the target audience on a personal level, the way that Coca-Cola created the “Share a Coke” campaign. The “Share a Coke” campaign produced Coke bottles with customer names on the labels and sold them throughout different cities. To really engage millennials, in particular, Coke ensured its products were accessible and personal to consumers.

Judging from the importance in creating a personal connection with millennials, brands could look into creating direct appeal through the tonality they use, visuals, keeping up with trending topics, #hashtags, emoticons or the ever-so-popular, memes.

Millennials engage in products they can relate to or feel like a participant. For example, to combat body image and empower young women, American Eagle’s sister line, Aerie, first created the campaign #AerieReal to show that women of all body types were fit to wear their product. With the success of #AerieReal, Aerie decided to take it a step further by photographing their models without photoshopping the images, reiterating their mission statement, “It’s not all about flaws or curves, it’s what’s beneath the skin. #AerieREal is about loving the real you. #AerieReal is about empowerment.” The reason why this campaign has been so successful is that it appeals to the current issue about body image, which many young female Millennials are challenged with on a daily basis.

To bring it back to Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign, the reason why it was so successful was that not only did Coca-Cola create bottles with their customer’s names, but they added the hashtag #ShareACoke which enabled their consumers to post it on social media. They encouraged consumers to Tweet their own stories with the hashtag, which generated hundreds of thousands of tweets. With the positive success of the #ShareACoke tweets, Coke was able to create sub-campaigns. For example, submitting a bottle or can with the name “Ryan” gives consumers a chance to #ShareACoke with Ryan Seacrest.

In order to enhance engagement with Millennial consumers, big-brand products need to find the right mission or purpose to maintain awareness. It would be in the best interest of brands to pay close attention to what Millennials are passionate about and think of ways to gain their support.

So What Is It Going To Take?

Here are three ways for brands to get on top of the competition and engage millennials:

  • Go Mobile – A recent study by Pew Research found that 85% of those aged between 15-35 own smartphones, which they use on a daily basis to stay connected to family and friends. They also use their phones to keep up with current issues and products that interest them. Brands, big or small, need to make sure that their consumers have the best mobile experience that is visually appealing, engaging, and straight to the point in order to engage millennials. Due to the increase in cell phone usage, millennials spend more time on their phones, which means marketers have an increased window of time to reach them – even during their work or school day.
  • Support Immersion Marketing – Millennials respond to rich, engaging online experiences, especially if the experiences can be shared for others to see. Millennials want to be inclusive, and with the growing FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that young adults currently face, immersion allows for marketers to create an online community for their audience to participate in. Companies that are successful will often ask their consumers to share their stories or pictures on a larger scale. When millennials are able to share their stories, it makes them feel connected. The content that becomes the campaign can live on a product’s site or social media platforms, such as Instagram or Snapchat. To engage Millennials, a sense of involvement is key.
  • Find Your Purpose – Millennials are more attached to experience than products. Engaging millennials means that brands need to tailor its products to promote the lifestyle of their target consumer audience. Marketing by age or gender is no longer enough. Instead, understand the lifestyle your product supports and use online channels to market and engage millennials.

In A Nutshell

Millennials and technology move quickly. As soon as a new platform of engagement is adopted, only the truly agile and speedy brands will know just how to take advantage of it.  Millennials aren’t like their parents. They’re more open to changing their minds based on new experiences and knowledge. Thus, when it comes to engaging millennials, be prepared to continually assess what they care about as they go through the stages of life, from getting married to having kids and so on. If you can start to adopt these steps into your research strategy when it comes to engaging millennials, then you’ll be on track to find the right insights to more effectively market to millennials than your competition.

Engaging millennials successfully is not something that just happens overnight. One fruitful way to uncover what millennials want from brands is through brand tracking and conducting research to continuously ensure you are on track with your messaging and engagement tactics.


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