Engaging with a millennial (and younger) audience requires more than a clever campaign; it often means reassessing how your company interacts with its customers.
These savvy consumers are bombarded with more promotional messaging than any other generation in history, and they have a sixth sense when it comes to phony marketing efforts.
However, reaching these audiences is no longer just an added bonus; it’s a necessity for nearly any brand to stay relevant and profitable. Millennials are now America’s largest generation by population, and their overall spending will soon overtake baby boomers. Generation Z in the US now has $44 billion in annual spending power.
Here are four tips to not only reach these audiences, but build lasting connections with them:
1. Create experiences around your product—and the purchasing of it.
Millennials and post-millennials, much more than baby boomers, would rather spend their money on experiences over things. Companies that will win among these audiences understand how to create memorable, special moments.
Numerous retail shops have added ancillary events and offerings in their stores. SATURDAYS NYC flagship store in New York’s Soho neighborhood and TOMS locations offer coffee shops and community seating areas for people to gather, work and spend time. Similarly, Alo Yoga offers free yoga classes and other events at its locations to engage its customers and build community.
Countless organizations have added social media experiences that provide these audiences with opportunities to create content. The Museum of Ice Cream locations in Los Angeles and Miami have generated billions of social media impressions by offering colorful installations that are the envy of any Instagram account.
Other brands have added “Instagram walls” or murals in front of their stores for would be customers to pose in front of. On one fashionable stretch of Melrose Ave in West Hollywood, over a dozen brands from Lululemon to Paul Smith boast Instagram walls that often have lines of photo takers.
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2. Design Matters.
Not every brand can create a brick and mortar experience. Another way to reach millennials and their younger counterparts is by offering thoughtful design, packaging, and photography.
RXBARS, a healthy energy bar company with a cult millennial following, recently sold to Kellogg for $600 million only several years after launching. Its packaging offered an aesthetically pleasing snack and showcased the nutritional content of its bars with a simple design. In addition, it used creative photography to rack up over 200,000 engaged Instagram followers.
3. Millennials reward companies that share their values and are good corporate citizens.
These audiences vote with their wallets. Authentically standing up for causes that they care about is often not only helpful, but necessary. The Nielson Global Sustainable Report indicated that 81 percent of millennials expect their favorite companies to make public declarations about their corporate citizenship.
Numerous millennial-focused brands who have built corporate social responsibility into their business model, like the socially conscious clothing label n:Philanthropy, have developed growing followings. n:Philanthropy donates 10 percent of its net proceeds to causes that help children and pets.
The inverse is also true; companies perceived as not sharing millennials’ values can face public backlash. For example, Uber’s tone-deaf response to a Muslim ban protest strike among New York taxi drivers sparked a movement to #DeleteUber.
4. Authenticity matters.
Millennial consumers are turned off by feeling “sold to,” especially on social media. Organizations that succeed on these platforms—and Instagram in particular—authentically portray lifestyles that appeal to their customers, instead of just offering up ads.
Mattress retailer Casper has managed to build an aspirational lifestyle for a product long thought to be unsexy and boring through its carefully curated Instagram. Cute pictures of dogs snuggled up on its mattresses are mixed in with trendy youths eating food and texting in well-designed bedrooms.
Millennials also expect companies to speak their language and understand their lifestyles. One way to do this is by partnering with influencers to create content for your brands. Consumers are more likely to trust a brand if is endorsed by not only a friend, but also a trusted influencer that they have already decided to follow.
Finally, one other overlooked way to appeal to the younger generation is to include millennials (and soon Generation Z) as key decision-makers on your marketing teams.
Raphael Farasat is the CEO & Creative Director of TRUFFL a Los-Angeles based creative agency and incubator for leading brands and startups like Tesla, Spotify, Heineken and FX.