By Ben Judah
Marketing and Communications Consultant
It is no secret that the ‘Millennial’ market is one of the most coveted demographics in the market today. They are arguably the largest consumer force, with some of the highest combined spending potential and have the widest span of influence compared to any others. Why then are many companies finding it so difficult to appeal to this critical group?
Firstly, if you didn’t cringe throughout that first paragraph, you’ve already started down the wrong path. When targeting any group, the golden rule is to speak in their language. How many people born from the 1980s to the early 2000s (using the widest understanding of the term), describe themselves as a ‘millennial’? I’d be hard pushed to find one. If you are using this terminology anywhere in your organization, stop – immediately. A shift in mindset is critical, the easiest way to build good channels of communication is to start acting and thinking as your target audience does. This diverse group can be split into hundreds of subsets, find the one which best reflects your group and change your terminology accordingly.
Converse, Don’t Preach
It is important to remember that this diverse group has a few common values; a general resentment of being dictated to, paired with an attraction to mutual conversation is paramount. As such, conversations must be two-way, this generation lives and breathes social media, and most brands understand the importance of having a presence in the space, but the importance of the conversation is often lost. When you open a channel of conversation (like Twitter), thinking of it as a method of delivering content is a dangerous pitfall.
If you are fortunate enough to have consumers engage by sending messages or commenting, a lack of response equates to ignoring customers when they are talking directly to you. It would be unheard of to do that to a 40-year-old standing in a company’s store or office, even if they are complaining, yet so many organizations end up do it to 20-year-old sending a Tweet. It means the same to them and can be the difference between a lifelong customer and one that badmouths a brand at every opportunity. Gary Vaynerchuk puts this balance between conversation and conversion beautifully in his book ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook’, in my mind, one of the best books regarding communications, especially over social media.
Be Honest, Always
Yes, always. More than functionality, reliability or even price, honesty is prized as the most important factor in brand loyalty. All actions of a company must be honest, genuine and authentic – if a company lies, this tech-savvy group will eviscerate a corporation. They communicate faster than any generation in history and know the ins and outs of social media better than any organization can ever hope to.
If there are skeletons in an organization’s closet, they will find and expose them – the best strategy, if a company is found out to have done something wrong, is to apologize quickly, genuinely and move on. Denying things, ignoring allegations and trying to brush anything under the carpet will only end up exacerbating the situation.
Many brands try to approach a new market segment as it will open up new streams of revenue for the company, ensure continued profitability and help with the bottom line. These may be good reasons for the company itself but is a lousy reason for the customers they are targeting. To properly approach this market, it is core to understand and explain the value you are adding to your customer’s lives.
This extends beyond the product or service itself, and into every piece of content you distribute through social media or other channels. Consistently adding value requires a huge amount of self-awareness – it is critical to know why you are targeting your audience, and why you do everything you do. ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek should be essential reading for all companies attempting to influence their audience, and is especially relevant to younger audiences.
Marketing can no longer be siloed to deliberate outward-facing content but needs to be ingrained within every iota of company contact. Everything from corporate social responsibility to the interview process will have an effect on the way in which a company is perceived by its audience. This age demographic will apply to more jobs than any generation in history, prioritizing applications to their favorite brands and companies.
Their experiences from applications, interview, rejections and working conditions will affect how they perceive the organization. The internet age has guaranteed that nothing remains private for long, from political donations or affiliations to bad management practices or internal scandals. Any inconsistency between how a company acts in private and its public persona will be uncovered, and the fallout can lead to ruin.
By conversing with your market, remaining honest, constantly adding value and remaining consistent internally and externally, you will have avoided four fatal yet basic pitfalls in approaching this misunderstood but important, group of people.
Oh, and stop calling us millennials, you sound silly.