While attending ad:tech San Francisco, it seemed to me that people had a lot to say about Millennials. "Millennials are tech savvy; Millennials know advertising," et cetera. Every time I heard the term "Millennials," it made my skin crawl. It was as if people were talking about my generation like we were a newly discovered species they didn't quite understand. But when I thought about it, I realized just how different my generation really is.
I got my first computer when I was 11 and my first cell phone at 13. By 14, I was building web pages, using instant messaging programs, downloading music from Napster and text messaging on my cell phone.
We grew up in an environment that didn't know what it was like not to have the internet and have grown to become the most influential and knowledgeable group of individuals today. And there are a lot of us: The recent Frank N. Magid presentation to OPA, "Generational Media Study" counted 79 million Millennials compared to 48 million Generation X-ers, with an average of those Millennials spending 2.5 hours online daily.
Millennials have developed the rules of conduct for interactive marketing, and if you break them, you risk the chance of doing significant damage to your brand identity. The OPA report mentioned above found that 70 percent of Millennials find internet advertising annoying and a huge factor towards that number was attributed to them feeling that companies don't know how to create internet ads for their age group.
With that said, you're probably wondering, "How do I reach the members of this demographic in a way that will engage their interest without harming my brand or campaign?"
Editor-in-Chief of iMedia Communications Brad Berens likens Millennials to "four-year-olds on crystal meth." Now I, myself don't twitch uncontrollably when I sit in front of my computer but I get his meaning. Usually I'm listening to music, with the television on, six tabs open on Firefox while instant messaging. If you want me to see your ad, you need to do it in a way that will capture my attention.
As iMedia's resident Millennial, I will give you the lowdown on exactly what we look for in a campaign, and ways to ensure you'll not only get our attention but get us excited about your brand as well.
Step one: get our attention
A recent CNN Money/Fortune article titled, "Attracting the twentysomething worker," highlighted the hurdles of working with Millennials. It brought up a point I find relevant for this conversation which is, Millennials are confident and have since they were young been told they were "special" and "unique," which is a nice way of saying we are very centered on ourselves. We've even been called "needy" and "entitled," and a group described to have one consciousness. I don't deny this allegation; the mere fact I began this article talking about myself proves this statement true, so what does that say to marketers?
It says, we like to think, talk and work on things that are centered around ourselves and our interests. So to get our attention, your campaign needs to be relevant to whatever content we are interacting with. Not only that, we want to interact with you on our terms.
There is nothing more off-putting to a Millennial than something that gets in her way of completing the task she has at hand, whether that task is listening to music, watching a video clip or reading a blog. Millennials don't mind advertising but it is important to find a way to advertise with them, not to them.
Pandora, an online radio project, has found a way to market to youngsters in just that way. "It's important to us to make sure our advertising isn't getting in the way of the user's experience," Cheryl Lucanegro told me. "We make sure that our ads enhance our user experience rather than interrupt." And Pandora's listeners have seemed to respond very well to this model. Pandora users tend to listen to their customized radio stations two to three hours everyday and clickthrough rates are through the roof.
The way the ads work on the site is that they "skin" the site based on 400 character traits of the music a person is listening to as well as geographic, gender and age targeting. The advertising skin stays stagnant until a user interacts with his radio station. Once the user skips a song, or clicks on his play list, the skin will change to reflect a new brand or campaign. Pandora even has branded radio stations (big players such as Blackberry and Budweiser have participated in this program) that play music chosen by those brands. When users listen to one of these stations, the skin of that brand stays on their background.
On average, a user will participate with the site 7.5 times per hour, ensuring that the advertising on the site is actually being viewed by the user. It never interrupts the flow of music or the user's experience. Pandora currently has 7 million subscribers.
So what is Pandora doing right? It's customizing the user's experience with the ad based on heavily researched targeting methods, which means the advertising being exposed to the users is relevant to their interests. When users click on the ads, it's because they are interested in the product, and, because they choose to interact and are not forced to.
Now, let's say you developed a campaign that's not intrusive and relevant to the user; the time has come to get Millennials interested in your product.
Step two: Get them interested
Your ad is right there on the page and it's relevant. It's something the Millennial will like and even benefit from participating in, and it's just begging to be clicked on. The problem is getting the Millennial interested enough to actually pay attention to it and hopefully click through to your campaign. To do this your campaign needs to catch her attention and get her interested quickly before her ever-moving eyes flick to a new page. Here's how you do it.
Have a conversation
Introduce yourself and your brand; let the Millennial know who you are. By introducing yourself, I don't mean haplessly flashing the brand name in the ad, but rather informing the user about the product or service you are promoting. Medium agnostic advertising can be a turn off -- it's kind of like when picking up a chick at a bar, what works better: a cliché one-liner or genuinely going up to someone and introducing yourself? --so make sure when you are inviting the person to interact you make it specific to the medium you are advertising in. Using creative that is educational and innovative will make the user comfortable with your brand and will have a higher chance of creating brand loyalty.
Once you've opened the flow of dialogue, let the Millennials talk back. Enable comments, reward participants and make it easy for them to share your campaign with their friends. Give them the URL for their blog, a widget, an embedded code. The more they can talk about your brand on their MySpace pages, blogs, online journals, the better for you. An easy way to get onto those pages is to get viddy with it.
Getting viddy with it
What's sad is that the pun in this subhead is already too old for a lot Millennials to remember: The growing and ever-changing vernacular and pop-culture consciousness means that to keep the monkey, I mean Millennials, happy, you have to be just as hip and with the times as they are. This ad created by Canadian agency BOS hits the target of what's hot now with viral videos. The video plays off the acronym, "WTF," to promote a new Cheetos colored mystery drink at Mac Convenience stores.
If you don't already have a YouTube account, well, good God man go create one! Link it to the brand's site, and integrate the video theme into the rest of your campaign. Sheesh!
The aforementioned OPA report found that 40 percent of Millennials pay attention to advertising on the internet mostly when their attention is driven to a product or service they want to learn about, so it is very important to create robust consumer websites so once they do click through they will find the information they were looking for. This is where Mac Convenience stores' campaign falls flat. The company created this hilarious video campaign but when you go to the site there is no information about the drink or the videos.
Blogs are best
Thirty-four percent of Millennials use the internet when deciding to make a purchase and 31 percent of Millennials use the internet when forming an opinion of your product. They're going to research your product whether you are speaking about it or not. The best way to get them educated about your product is to blog about it!
Dave Wilkie at Dexterity Media has a great list of blogging best practices and Michael Mattis, Yahoo!'s search marketing manager, wrote a recent piece for iMedia listing 7.5 helpful rules towards creating a corporate blog. It's a relatively inexpensive way to have a conversation with your potential consumer. Most importantly, Millennials want to know that your company is human; meaning they want you to interact with them, respond to their comments and acknowledge their existence. We like attention, remember?
Focus on tools, not networks
Social networks are proliferated with distractions and it will be more difficult here than anywhere else to get lost in the shuffle. Just to give you an idea of the clutter, take a look at my MySpace home page.
The blacked out section on the left is my personal information. All of that stuff on the right is advertisement. There is no reason for me to ever look to that side of the screen because, for one, it's ugly, and secondly, I know what is there and I'm not interested.
Marketing on social networks is a lot more about giving Millennials tools to use and then share on those sites than it is about flashing information at them. You barely even notice the T-Mobile ads at the top of the page (I'd say that's money well wasted); instead use a customized MySpace page as another forum where you can represent your brand or product.
Cherry Coke and Cherry Coke zero incorporated MySpace in their coke rewards program by creating a very well designed MySpace page, inviting users to be their friends and even hosting a page design contest where friends could design their own Cherry Coke themed MySpace pages.
This is a win-win situation for Cherry Coke. Not only is the brand engaging users with the product, but by allowing them to create their own Cherry Coke themed pages, the company turns users into spokespeople for the brand. As of the writing of this piece, Cherry Coke had over 40,000 friends on the network.
Cherry Coke has succeeded in marketing on MySpace by creating a community within a community. Once the users interact with Cherry Coke on MySpace, they can continue onto Coca-Cola's MyCokeRewards program, which steps up the level of user interactivity and gives consumers rewards for participating with the brand. It's all about what you have to offer them, and once you've engaged the user it's all about taking the lead in the relationship.
Step three: Take the lead
Now that they're comfortable and they like you, you have to show them that you like them as well. Keep the user engaged, informed and coming back for more. Obviously you want to offer as much content as possible, but you also need to diversify your approach. Take users places they wouldn't have gone before and introduce them to new content. You set the parameters and you choose the location. Make them come to you for more content rather than running free with it.
Keep them updated
Don't let your content lie dormant for too long. Millennials have a short attention span and it doesn't take long for them to become bored. Constant updates -- whether it be through the medium you are interacting in or others (landing pages, blogs or email) -- and constant rewards are the best way to ensure you keep Millennials' interest.
Give them feedback
Stay on top of what they are saying about your brand and respond to them! Again, this is best done through a corporate blog or social network. If someone leaves a comment, respond to it by commenting back. If he knows you're listening, he'll stay to continue the conversation.
Speak their language
And don't be threatened by controversy. Not everyone is going to like your campaign and, believe me, they'll tell you if they don't. Also: don't talk down to them. Millennials are a very well connected group and they probably know more about your brand then you do. Make sure you speak to them as the informed and mature individuals they believe themselves to be.
People try to put us down...
I hate to talk bad about my generation, but we are a fickle group. The key to talking with us and getting our attention is to keep us engaged and entertained. We don't mind advertising; in fact, we spend a lot of time looking through the internet trying to find ads that speak to us! The number one rule to remember is if you approach us as equals and take the time to talk to us, your campaign will be a success. Ignore these rules and suffer our apathy.
Krisserin Canary is the associate editor in charge of creative showcase for iMedia Connection. Read full bio.