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How to rise above the noise and win millennials’ hearts

By Expert commentator 17 Aug, 2016
Customer engagement strategy

Millennials want the same thing as every other age group, it's just the channels for delivering it that have changed.

They have youth, influence, and spending power. They can also spot BS from a mile away, and it’s not easy to win their hearts.

AdWeek calls them “easily the most sought-after demo for marketers and advertisers.”

Others call them “Generation Y.” Whatever you choose to call them, the demographic has reached an important point where their purchasing power is heading towards its peak.

And it’s a huge generation, born anytime between the early 1980s and 2000. And of course there are major differences in life experience and expectations between someone born in 1983 and someone born in ‘99, but the important thing to know about the entire group is that they’ve grown up alongside an information boom. That means they know just how to navigate online to get the info they want, and they’re also adept at ignoring all the “noise” along the way.

So, as brands try harder and harder to reach this enormous group of buyers, how can your marketing stand out and be seen by Millennial eyes, and not be perceived as “noise”?

There are three important characteristics to pay attention to, across this massive generation:

1. Their online habits

Millennials are on mobile. ComScore states that mobile-only Internet usage is headed up by Millennials, “of which 21 percent are no longer using desktop computers to go online.” If the trend continues, the desktop may not survive outside of the workplace environment (except for gaming, perhaps), and the workplace is usually not the best place for free-time shopping.

In addition, eMarketer did a survey that concluded 13-18 year olds reported using mobile for 4+ hours per day. (The same goes for almost half of the 19-22 age group.) So mobile is not only getting used, it’s getting used a LOT.

At the other end of the age spectrum, ComScore says Millennials aged 25-34 are using mobile apps the most out of all age groups, millennial or not.

There’s one other point that needs to be made here. This age group is clearly getting their pre-purchase research done on mobile, but there are still some improvements that need to be made with mobile apps and sites before the m-commerce boom truly makes its mark on retail.

So, again, if you’ll allow me to generalize about the entire generation:


So what can you do?

Well if you’re targeting teenagers, the answer is clear. Spend a lot of time developing your mobile site. Pour your energy and creativity into building apps that make the shopping experience fun and focused on encouraging repeat purchase and building up a strong emotional bond, a.k.a. brand loyalty.

And if you’re selling online, make sure you’ve got a super-smooth online checkout and payment system in place, because that’s what will make you a front-runner as moreI dont find i purchases are made on mobile.

Want to reach an audience in their mid-20s to mid-30s? An app may just be the perfect way to get their attention. Plus, if you make the in-app experience a particularly fun or valuable one, that takes care of getting you a good rate of returning customers - and that’s something we all seek.

Ray-Ban did app marketing really well with their Reflections campaign, creating a photography app that let users take interesting double-exposure selfies (with branded lens filter names, might I add) that can be published directly to Ray-Ban’s Reflections landing page. This gave something cool for users to do, led to their website - right next to all of those gorgeous sunglasses. Then the company gave credit for the user-generated content made by the brand’s fans and customers. The app they developed is not a hard sell, but instead it’s an interesting opportunity to do what people love - taking selfies - in a creative, new way - and offering several paths that lead users back to the website, if they choose to explore.

Ray Ban reflections

Awesome UGC direct from Ray-Ban’s Reflections app, right on their site.

2. Their feelings about advertising

Millennials have gained a reputation for not liking advertising too much. Males aged 18-29 comprise the demographic most likely to use ad blocking technology.

Crowdly points out that 47% of 18-24 year olds are using ad blockers now. To add more salt to the advertising wound, according to’s breakdown of a Wells Fargo study, these young adults tend to really dislike mobile popup and video ads.

Although there is still more time until something is done about ad blocking, brands can combat this trend in its early stages. (Companies selling to US audiences may have a better chance at this)

So what can you do?

There are three ways you can showcase your products to the anti-ad contingent:

Tap into the power of referrals

There’s one thing I know for sure. People trust their family and friends more than they trust what a brand or an advertiser says. The proof? 83% of global respondents in Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising survey said they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of family and friends.

That’s cool, so make sure you’re putting a little bit more effort into your referrals strategy. A successful loyalty program is going to give you the ability to reward referrals and referred purchases, encouraging action by both the referrer and “ .

Try influencer marketing

It’s easy to find great tips about influencer marketing, and there are actually agencies and sites, like TapInfluence, that are available exclusively to help you contact influencers with your business propositions and manage influencer campaigns. Consider making influencer marketing a part of your long-term marketing strategy, because when done right, a few blog posts or Instagram photos from influential figures can really go a long way in terms of brand recognition and bring in loads of new customers and a great ROI.

Make sure you know your brand advocates and keep recognizing and thanking them

Ever heard of Jeep? I sure hope so, because Jeep has done an incredible job of building and encouraging brand advocacy among their customers of all ages. Their marketing includes Jeep Live, where customers can earn a badge of honor by documenting their trail rides. It also includes My Jeep Story, where Jeep owners and fans can share their stories and love for the vehicles.

If you’re curious what they’re doing to reach millennials specifically, they’ve got some really good partnerships that the target outdoor-centric lifestyle and athletes, like their partnership with World Surf League - something that teens through thirty-somethings who surf or love sport can appreciate. They’ve also featured athletes and celebrities on My Jeep Story that our generation has watched and listened to, like Ciara and Paul George.
Jeep stories

Jeep employs some awesome celebrity and brand partnerships to keep their 75-year-old brand relevant in 2016.

3. Their love for communities and rewards

There are several types of communities that brands can cultivate. One is a loyalty program. eMarketer found that 68% of 20- to 34-year-olds would change where they shopped if they knew they could get more program rewards. About ⅓ also said they’ve bought something they didn’t even need just to earn points or increase membership status. Find a loyalty program provider, like Antavo, which will let you reward brand advocates, referrals and social media shares.

Another community to build is a community of sharing. Powerful brands who want to reach any target group know this is key. For example, a massive camera brand that became both a household name and somewhat of a legend among active millennials: GoPro.

Photo of the day. Video of the day. GoPro Awards. These are a few of the things that the brand has done to build a community using their own products. And just take a look around their site to see how inclusive it all is. Copy like “We’re celebrating content creators like you daily.” and the clear display of each contributor’s name makes it feel like an accessible and open community and the young and active audience that they’re going for is more than willing to contribute!

So what can you do?
Consider what interests your customers have and create a link between that and your products. Selling pens? Share user artwork. Selling gaming accessories? Get users to contribute awesome screenshots or photos of the gaming experience. Selling organic tea? Use a special Instagram hashtag for those special morning tea moments.

Be inclusive and inviting. And introduce a loyalty program that offers awesome rewards and ties into the social communities you’re working hard to build.

Finally, recognize and reward your customers for engaging with your content, like videos and blog posts, for referring their peers, and for sharing their own photos and videos with your products on social.

go pro

Textbook example of using UGC as a part of marketing, showing love and respect to their extremely loyal customers, by GoPro.

The takeaway

Just like people of any age, millennials love great communities, good offers and feeling appreciated. The only thing that has really changed is the medium. Millennials are browsing before they buy on mobile more than any other groups out there, and they rely on ratings, reviews and referrals to get the job done. Reach this massive audience with a bit of creativity, quality visual content and offer a customer community instead of a hard advertising sell.


By Expert commentator

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