The Six ‘Be’s’ of Millennial Marketing

I am often asked for advice on how to promote brands to Millennials.  Here’s a short list of my top recommendations. I’ve discussed many of these ideas before, so where appropriate I’ve included links to earlier posts.

1.   Be Authentic:

Millennials give everything the smell test before they give consideration. Does this brand walk its talk? Is there anything trappy or gimmicky going on? Do the claims being made require proof? A ‘yes’ to any of these questions is a show stopper. With so many options just a click away, Millennials simply won’t take the time to look further. Conversely, a brand that has withstood the test of time without relying on the prevailing fashion or the need to ‘go viral’ will earn their respect.  We recently completed a project for a 117-year old print publication that is seeing strong growth among young women. Why? The magazine has been true to itself. They love being part of something that their mothers and grandmothers read, and still read. This continuity is proof they can trust it to guide their style (and life) decisions.

2.  Be Relevant:

Do you really understand what matters to Millennials? If not, your brand risks being ignored. Relevance goes beyond your message and its context (although those are important, too), right to the heart of your value proposition. We recently completed some work for a major retailer. The criteria for inclusion in the research was the same for all age groups: homeowners who spend more than $10 a month at home improvement and hardware stores. But on every dimension, homeowners under 34 were uninterested in what this brand had to offer. No amount of ‘promotion’ will be enough to break through that apathy and change their behavior. (See “Millennial to Marketers: Be Quick Be Relevant Be Shiny” and “Engaging Millennials: How Marketers Can Break Through”)

3.     Be A Necessity:  

Millennials regard themselves as poor, cash-strapped and on the edge of financial calamity. Sadly, for many this is true. But even for those with disposable income, the ‘luxury’ position is unlikely to resonate. Millennials believe they purchase only what is necessary. Fortunately for marketers, Millennials have a broad view of what is necessary.  A MacBook, the latest Nike shoes, and an iPhone with unlimited text messaging are all bare necessities for my teens. It does no good to point out that others make do with less.

4.  Be Free or Be A Value:

One of my favorite blog post titles is, “If You Are Not A Millennial You Paid Too Much”. Millennials are careful  shoppers. They are a salesperson’s dream or worst nightmare depending on your perspective, a consumer that comes in completely prepared to discuss what they want and what they expect to pay. They are avid consumers of opinion sites and compare prices before they buy.

4.  Be Socially Responsible:

In a recent global study of Millennial values “fighting for what you believe in” was discovered to be a uniting force for Gen Y.  A relevant cause can keep your brand top of mind, make it talk worthy and act as a tie-breaker when all else is equal. Little wonder nearly every brand targeted to Gen Y is associated with at least one cause. The best cause marketing efforts make contributing effortless. Tom’s Shoes is in my mind still the gold standard – buy a pair of shoes for yourself and treat a shoeless child somewhere in the world with a pair at the same time. (See “Just Be-Cause”  and “Buy Cool Stuff, Do Good”)

5.   Be Shareable:

Everyone knows Millennials are avid users of social media, and the reason is that they love to share. ‘Social currency’ takes many forms – a laugh, some news, a tip, a coupon, a free app. Brands that understand how to provide that currency are among the most loved Millennial brands. Being shareable requires two things —  having something worth sharing and a mechanism for doing it. Facebook is terrific for brands that act like people, posting pictures, announcing events and providing engaging things to do, but that lack the personal touch. (See “Why Brands Make Poor Friends”).

6.  Be an Experience:

Millennials are more interested in doing cool things than having cool things. They don’t buy a latte, they buy a latte experience. They are curious, want to learn and believe experiences are a way of investing in themselves. A post today on Brazen Careerist by Matt Bader  argues Gen Y employeees should be hired based on the sum of their broader ‘Experience’, not whether they have specific ‘experience’. Gourmet cooking and wine were hot even before Julie and Julia because they represent something you can do. (See “Who Knew? Millennials Are Foodies” and “Gen Y Food preferences You Are What You Eat“)

That’s seven. What would you add?