In the movie “Meet the Parents,” Robert De Niro’s character obsessively guards his “circle of trust,” an exclusive group of VIPs he treats with affection and respect. Gaining entry into this tight-knit group is no easy feat, especially for his daughter’s fiancé, played by Ben Stiller, who spends the entire film trying to impress him.
When you think about it, this frustrating (but also humorous) dynamic is similar to the one between marketers and Millennials. Today’s young consumers represent the hard-to-please father, while your brand is the suitor trying to prove its worth.
The Millennial Challenge
Millennials provide a unique challenge because they lead lives dominated by digital. They’re used to having all the information and entertainment content they could ever want right at their fingertips. How many times have you been in a social setting with Millennials and seen someone whip out a smartphone to settle a debate?
Suffice it to say, standard ad campaigns fail to resonate with this group. A whopping 84% of respondents to a recent survey said they don’t like traditional advertising. Further, you just aren’t going to reach this demographic if you limit your presence to historically go-to mediums; most Millennials have no cable or satellite TV subscriptions and prefer to get their news online rather than from newspapers or magazines.
When these young professionals are interested in a brand, a vast majority will scope out the company through search engines and social media—and when they do so, they want to see clear, consistent messaging across all channels.
They understand that brands are in the business of selling products and making money, but they also expect honesty and transparency throughout every interaction.
The Era Of ‘Always-On’ Marketing
For years, marketers followed a proven method for developing campaigns: Build the creative product, push it to consumers, measure the results, rinse, and repeat. But today, marketers must take an always-on, multichannel approach—and they also have to cede some of their control over how brand messages are received.
Social media is an incredibly powerful way to generate interest, but it works best when it’s organic. Young audiences know when social media posts are forced and inauthentic; they prefer casual interactions in which brands come across as off-the-cuff.
Brands must also be prepared to consistently weave their value propositions throughout multiple online channels. They should routinely monitor social conversations and be ready to chime in at a moment’s notice. Being able to respond with appropriate messaging creates spontaneous, genuine interactions young audiences love.
Nordstrom does a particularly great job of connecting with its Millennial customers. Not only does it target ads to different segments within the demographic, but it also has launched a number of innovative social media campaigns.
In one such campaign, the company engaged college seniors on Snapchat by inviting them to take snaps using the brand’s custom filter for a chance to win a shopping spree. Supermodel Karlie Kloss hosted the initiative, which increased the company’s Snapchat following by 60%.
By establishing a presence on a platform Millennials frequent, enlisting the help of a trusted, recognizable ambassador, and offering value in exchange for their attention, Nordstrom successfully earned its way into Millennials’ circle of trust.
Brands that hope to enjoy similar success should consider the following strategies:
Define And Promote Your Personality
Millennials love social media because the venue allows them to showcase their unique personalities, opinions, and values. That said, as a brand, your best bet is to learn to love social media for these very same reasons.
Decide how you want to be perceived, and make sure all your tweets, Facebook posts, snaps, and Instagram photos reflect that persona. Use social media to establish, express, and expand upon your core values.
Over time, pay attention to which types of posts resonate with your audiences. Every platform now offers engaging ad formats and analytics systems, so test out different strategies and find out what works best. Once you’ve identified the optimal mix, use paid advertising to supercharge your reach.
You don’t have to hire a 24/7 response team, but you do need to make it easy for young consumers to contact your company. Whether they’re having issues with their orders or want to ask questions about the organization, Millennials expect friendly one-on-one interactions.
People increasingly use Twitter and Facebook to connect with brands, so make sure your social media team is equipped to address customers’ concerns. Last year, Comcast tripled its employees assigned to social media responsiveness in order to improve its customer service. You might not go quite that far, but definitely go out of your way to be attentive and communicative on your social accounts.
Target Through Tech
Targeted advertising is crucial to connecting with young consumers. Newscred conducted a study of Millennials that found 54% of respondents want to see age-appropriate ads and 63% want information relevant to their cultural interests. Another study found that 55% of customers respond positively to geographically tailored content.
Programmatic media management enables you to cover all of these bases and serve ads that are based on specific interests and behaviors. Aligning your messaging with such granular targeting helps create a more personalized marketing experience, making it more likely that you’ll reach the right audiences at the right times.
Just as Robert De Niro made Ben Stiller jump through countless hoops to become part of his inner circle, Millennials are putting brands through a similar ordeal. By embracing targeted ads and social engagement, you can make major strides toward connecting with this audience and letting Millennials know you’re serious about earning their loyalty.