Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 | 7 min read
Brands have spent a lot of time (and money) trying to figure out how to market to Millennials, and it comes easier for some than for others.
Social media successes such as DiGiorno’s irreverent live-tweeting bonanzas and the Denny’s fever dream Tumblr page generate laughs, clicks, and—most importantly—the attention of young, digital-savvy consumers.
These clever campaigns often inspire envy, plus a little trepidation, among companies such as banks and healthcare providers that—due to the highly-regulated nature of their industries and older customer bases—can’t necessarily get away with the sort of candid, real-time content that consumer brands are able to pull off.
It’s no secret that marketing to Millennials is necessary for nearly all businesses, but it’s easy to understand why mature companies might be reluctant to become tongue-in-cheek meme machines when such a strategy can draw eye rolls from the very people they’re trying to reach.
The good news is that there are ways for the adults in the room to get the kids’ attention without resorting to played-out slang or outright pandering.
At the very least, companies should:
You’d be hard-pressed to find a financial services, healthcare, or insurance provider that doesn’t use a wide range of social media channels. Still, there are ways for these large, well-established companies to reflect their wisdom and grown-up confidence in a Millennial-friendly manner.
Research shows that concise content is a particularly effective way to reach younger consumers. In fact, according to one study, brief content has a better chance of succeeding among Millennials than material that is funny or interesting.
The Snapchat generation’s love of brevity may rub some people the wrong way, but in a world where people of all ages are spending dozens of hours per week consuming digital content, there is an obvious need for concision and directness.
Banks, for example, can tweet straightforward infographics about investing strategies for young professionals. Say what you will about the generation’s love of brevity, but a youngster with some money in his or her pocket is more likely to internalize information in tweet form than from a CEO letter or a predictably dull TV commercial.
A tweet such as this one strikes the right balance of information and simplicity and serves to position BlackRock—a company trying to shake the image of a sterile financial behemoth—as a useful resource on Millennial investing habits.
— BlackRock® (@blackrock) March 18, 2016
‘Snackable’ content is the new normal for a significant portion of the population, and it would be wise for companies—regardless of how many decades they’ve been in the business—to recognize this trend.
The need for straightforward, honest content is due in large part to the generation’s cynical bent and outright distrust of advertising. According to Forbes, a whopping 1% of Millennials say that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. On the flipside, 89% of Millennials trust so-called “influencers” over brands themselves.
Thus, it is essential that older, more experienced companies lean on the expertise of their employees and mobilize them to educate and, well, influence younger consumers.
This Citi blog post, for example, is full of advice aimed for young professionals. Because the post features earnest suggestions and revealing examples from a real, live person, it is helpful without seeming forced or patronizing. The advice isn’t coming from a Millennial but rather a more experienced professional who is uniquely qualified to provide advice for younger people. It’s real, it’s effective, and—fortunately for advertisers—it’s easy to replicate.
While there is no need for the Citigroups of the world to turn their social feeds into a gif-fest (at least not yet), there is positive attention to be gained from staid-seeming companies loosening their collars a bit.
These brands should consider using social to promote content that’s amusing or informal by corporate standards. This may entail using a more conversational tone in social media and other web content, or a more substantial approach such as dedicating a blog or report to relevant advice for younger consumers.
In short, companies can tailor their communications without altering or straying from their core messages.
Banks can provide important, useful information—without sounding like an overbearing grandparent—with articles like, “How Not to Go Broke During Wedding Season” and “How Long Can you Really Ignore Credit Card Debt?”. Similarly, a healthcare company might join the fray with a lighthearted Facebook post laying out safety reminders for yoga and Crossfit enthusiasts.
Geico, ever attuned to the public’s need for gecko and caveman-related content, has a very approachable blog that includes cheery-but-important advice on matters such as affordable romance.
In addition, this Bank of America study on Millennial money habits overflows with information that can help the selfie set chart a better financial future.
Much smaller in scope, this post from New York Life provides important insight on insurance in an approachable, un-stodgy manner—from the perspective of a 23 year-old.
For some companies, projecting knowledge and experience is more important than gaining re-tweets. Fortunately, the two strategies are not mutually exclusive. More traditional plans can step a toe outside the proverbial box and gradually emerge from it as they identify what works for them.
Love them or hate them, Millennials are growing up, and many are now in the market for products with which we tend to associate older generations: Home loans, health insurance and the like. Consider that Millennials make up the largest share of home buyers in the country, according to the National Association of Realtors.
It’s a group that packs an economic punch and one that will only become more influential in the coming years.
Companies that deliver these resources are chomping at the bit to reach these important consumers, and with a bit of strategic thinking when it comes to their social strategy, they can do so without coming off like, well, this.