I’ve mentioned it before in previous articles, and it’s worth saying again: The Millennial generation is the broadest, biggest, and most culturally diverse generation yet. Falling between the ages of 16 to 35, Millennials are at that stage where they are actively purchasing products, making them a key demographic for marketers to pay attention to. In fact, in just four years, Millennial expenditure will account for 30% of all retail sales in the United States.
But given that a teenage Millennial’s interests are much different than that of a 30-something Millennial, identifying a “one-size-fits-all” marketing technique to appeal to all ages in this generation is a quixotic task. Still, a few general themes seem to appeal to the broad generation as a whole—and the marketing team of Ubisoft’s “Just Dance 2017” video game may have figured them out. (Note: I have no affiliation with the company. As both a Millennial and a marketer, I was impressed and wanted to learn more.)
Now in its eighth year, “Just Dance” is the best-selling dance game franchise of all time. As with just about anything that has annual versions, the ability to stay new and authentic while also maintaining the qualities that made a product popular in the first place becomes increasingly difficult with each passing year. The folks at Ubisoft faced this challenge, along with wanting to appeal to the Millennial audience as well as their parents. That, in itself, required some fancy footwork: These two audiences contradict one another to an extent, especially when it comes to entertainment preferences.
The “Just Dance” marketing team partnered with ad agency Funworks to brainstorm a solution. I spoke to Funworks’ chief creative officer, Craig Mangan, who told me how, unlike a typical strategy session, Funworks filled the room with comedians and improv artists of different age groups and started tossing around ideas for a campaign. They identified and addressed three key traits that Millennials share: They don’t like being advertised to, they like to try before they buy, and they consist of a wide variety of cultures, demographics, and personal preferences.
Clearly, simply preaching why people should buy the game would not resonate. Ads needed to come across as both entertaining and informative but still leave viewers with a key understanding of the game and a desire to purchase. The agency showed the game to the target audience, who were also comedians, and encouraged them to play. At first, everyone was hesitant to start dancing, but soon embarrassment fell by the wayside. “It went from nope to dope in just 8 seconds,” said one of the participants—who unwittingly came up with the tagline for the game.
The resulting ad featured a “seasoned” commentator using the fresh lingo of the younger demographic. “You can’t just say slang like ‘dope’ and expect it to resonate with Millennials. They are very smart and hate anything disingenuous,” Mangan told me. “But having a 60-year-old voice saying the words gave the sarcastic and authentic humor we were looking for. It’s juxtaposing the two generations.”
Millennials’ preference to try before they buy was addressed with a free trial of “Just Dance.” As Phil Libin, former CEO of Evernote, so eloquently put it: “The easiest way to get 1 million people paying is to get 1 billion people using.”
The freemium model helped on two fronts. First, it allowed Ubisoft to focus its ad campaign on why people should try the game rather than buy it. Secondly, users were less likely to leave poor reviews due to buyer’s remorse since they would have experienced any dislikes about the game prior to buying it.
Finally, given the sheer size of and variance of preferences among the Millennial generation, the game had to have music with wide appeal and could be played on myriad platforms. Thus, “Just Dance” was made available on seven different gaming platforms, including the PC for the first time, with songs by Justin Bieber and Queen. And, keeping in mind that mobile is a must for this first digital generation, players can use their smartphones as controllers for the game.
The takeaway for marketers here is that, when marketing to Millennials, ad campaigns should be focused on addressing benefits or value of the product or service rather than the cost. Accessing a product or service itself should be as frictionless as possible, translating to an easy user experience. In the case of “Just Dance,” it was about demonstrating that anyone can have fun, no matter age, song preference, or device. “This is an awesome wacky game, no matter who you play it with or how you play it,” said Kristina Phillips, brand manager at Ubisoft.