4 Critical Tips to Targeting Millennials (Hint: You’re Already Doing It Wrong)

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 organisation, 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 have 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 organisations 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 organisation can ever hope to.  If there are skeletons in an organisation’s closet, they will find and expose them – the best strategy, if a company is found out to have done something wrong is to apologise quickly, genuinely and move on.  Denying things, ignoring allegations and trying to brush anything under the carpet will only end up exacerbating the situation.

Add value

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.

Be Consistent

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, prioritising applications to their favourite brands and companies.  Their experiences from applications, interview, rejections and working conditions will affect how they perceive the organisation.  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.

There are a whole host of other books that cover a nuanced approach to marketing to this generation, I wholely recommend Marketing to Millennials by Jeff Fromm, but 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 opening this difficult to approach, but critical market.  Oh, and stop calling us millennials, you sound silly.

The Ubiquitous White Shirt

shirt

The ubiquitous white shirt.  Every guy (and girl) has one in his wardrobe whether it gets worn every week, every month, or never – it’s always present.  But why? The white shirt is smart and casual, it’s ready for a date or an interview, with jeans or a suit – it’s elegantly simple.

For my birthday last year,  my wife bought be a new white shirt – with a twist.  This particular shirt was from Ministry of Supply and as such, is awesome.  They have managed to reinvent the wheel.  In a world of breakthrough technological advances on a near daily basis, it is surprising to think that clothing has hardly evolved in the last 70 years (ignoring performance sporting apparel), styles have changed, but the materials we use and the methods of garment creation remain the same.  So what makes this particular shirt so special?

Gihan Amarasiriwardena is the co-founder of Ministry of Supply explains that clothing isn’t a device, like a chair, or a form of art, it’s both, and now manufacturers much satisfy both form and function, he aspires to create ‘clothing that is an extension of our body’.  But Gihan isn’t your typical tailor – he met the other founders Kit and Aman at MIT, and in 2011 decided to create a performance dress shirt and launch it on Kickstarter – the Apollo – which smashed the record for the most funded fashion Kickstarter at that time.

But again, what is a performance dress shirt?  It simply a shirt totally designed for use and wear by the modern person, born out of human centred design.  It regulates your temperature, stretches in all the right places is stain resistant and doesn’t crease.  In short, it’s designed to be worn by real people, people who start their commute at 7am on the train and know they are going for drinks straight after work, for people who have a meeting straight after their flight and for people who know they’ll spill mustard down their front at lunch.  In Gihan’s words, they are designed “to solve the problem the person brings to life”.

Human centred design can and should happen in all spheres of our world, whether the product is in the real world, or software.  The final product must integrate itself with the user quickly and naturally, adoption should be easy.  Getting to this point is however quite the opposite – creators must disregard everything they think they know about the topic and spend a huge amount of time talking to people about their actual needs.  The team at Ministry of Supply interview people over beer and pizza to ask questions and most importantly, to listen.  Only by this process of listening can we finding pain points and innovate our products to address them – it was this process that led to the creation of their Atlas Socks (in their words, it’s like a “second skin”).  Listen, create, test, repeat.  Testing should be something just done in controlled conditions, you must get out there in the real world.  Mr. Amarasiriwardena did this in spades – he ran a half marathon wearing one of their performance suits, a feat which not only netted the company some great PR, but also gave an insight into the product that no amount of lab testing could.

We have the technology, the tools have evolved for us to create better, cheaper and quicker, rather than creating quicker and cheaper – a trend followed by the masses, it is possible to create better and to stand out from the crowd.  Rather than addressing the problems that the company faces (the need to drive down costs and produce faster), we can use our technological means to solve the problems that the end user brings to life.

It’s not a simple white shirt, it’s so much more than that.

If you are interested, click here and get $50 off your first purchase.

NOTE – I am in no way affiliated to Ministry of Supply.

 

The Key Factor Missing from Your Marketing Strategy

Brands are increasingly putting their marketing efforts under a microscope – scrutinizing them for predictable ROI and concrete business result.  This focus and detail oriented approach is something to be praised, it ensures high quality campaigns and instills an onus of accountability within the marketing department or agency.  It does however, leave the door open for one major factor to be missed when new campaigns are created.

The underlying factor in good marketing is empathy.  The dividing factor between good and great campaigns is the ability for a marketer to put themselves in the shoes of their audience and think ‘What would interest me?’, ‘How could this provide value to my life?’ and ‘Why is this relevant to me?’.  It is relevant across the board, from automotive to financial, healthcare to SaaS, advertising to PR and beyond.  Tony Zambito puts this beautifully ‘We cannot communicate well if we do not know who our customers and buyers are, what things are important to them, and why what they hope to accomplish is important to them.’  Unfortunately, this factor seems to be an element being given less and less credence in an increasingly data-driven world.

Not to downplay the importance of data, but I am often reminded of the quote by Andrew Lang ‘He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than for illumination.’  It is crucial that data informs rather than justifies decisions.

Empathy is an aspect that, in its very nature, is unquantifiable.  It has no data points, and has no unit of measurement – it just is.  To be empathetic, a brand must use human innate judgement based off research, experience, and a deep understanding of the target market.  It requires a level of trust that comes from a recognition that marketing itself is not a set of skills, but a philosophy – one which stems from an understanding of people, rather than tools.  This tends to be easier for small companies and startups than larger more developed businesses – this is because as a company grows, their departments become increasingly specialized and siloed, with more partners and a heavier reliance on pure data to prove their effectiveness.  This specialization can be very useful for productivity, but run the risk of creating an ‘Us and Them’ mentality, which can create isolation and rifts.

If you are reading this and realize that this is something missing from your external marketing, understanding why it is missing in the first place can reveal a huge amount about the current Modus Operandi of an organization.  A great example is Zappos.com – a company that built its entire business model on the idea of empathizing with its customers.  Their answer to buyer hesitancy was to offer a no questions asked returns policy that directly addressed the needs of their customers – every piece of marketing underlines this, and every action is anchored to the need for understanding how customers react.

Empathy should filter throughout all departments and all communications, from TV adverts to internal communications, website copy to journalist interactions, down to the hiring process and office layout.  Empathy should be a standard factor used in all aspects of company growth and marketing, but unfortunately, until it is measurable, many companies will continue to downplay and ignore this hugely valuable parameter.

For those not currently doing so, choosing to actively champion empathy as a core element to the construction of marketing campaigns may seem like a gamble at first – not relying solely on data, or behaving like a company in the classical sense.  Kevin McKeon from the agency Olson puts it beautifully – Think like people, not marketers.