Look, marketing is tough. Most successful companies do a decent job, but smaller companies struggle to ace marketing to Gen Y. We see rockstars like Beats or RedBull--but how can a smaller organization, with a limited marketing budget, really capture the attention of an enormous, buying-power-laden group of people that can be challenging to engage with?

I like to think of up-and-coming entertainment business CircusTrix as one of the companies that gets it right. CEO Case Lawrence and his team have created a home for extreme recreation in almost 30 parks in the US, Europe, and Asia, and lay claim to being the largest sole owner/operator of extreme recreation parks in the world. Here is what they're doing.

The Character (Don't Overthink It)

Lawrence, like many other marketers, uses a "character-based" approach when designing and developing his parks, and believes strongly that this is key to successfully marketing to millennials.

"At CircusTrix, we have a name and identify for our target millennial," said Lawrence. "His name is Landon and he is a male age 16 to 25. For every park we create, we ask ourselves what Landon's response will be to every detail of the experience including the mix of attractions, the park design, the music, the pop art and park layout."

The key here, then, is that Landon isn't applied as a broad brush--he's applied per park, and per experience. Landon in Las Vegas might be a bit different than Landon in Fresno.

Allow for Local Variation

Every park has its own brand, and different parks employ different channels and means to engage their audiences, especially on social media.

The point being that, rather than packaging and boxing each park in the same way, each one gets to carve its own path to Landon. That's important. Landon may fit the basic mold of the millennials who are the key target market for CircusTrix, but beyond the overarching tendencies and interests, flexibility is promoted. As Lawrence puts it, once they know that a particular attraction or detail appeals to Landon, they look to be creative.

This isn't new--Global brands like Nike and Coca-Cola have long used different campaigns, products, and marketing in different parts of the world. This is the same principle, applied at a regional level, to a specific demographic.

Create [Shareable, Social] Experiences

The end point is that these are not just trampoline parks. They're an experience, planned and executed to hook a connected demographic in a specific market. That provides an edge over isolated or cookie-cutter franchised jumping arenas and obstacle courses.

Critically, the experience is social and sharable.

"CircusTrix is all about shareable physical and social experiences," said Lawrence. "Our marketing strategy...is to craft a cool experience that people are proud, anxious and enthusiastic about inviting a friend to participate in with them."

The company attracts its millennial customers through little direct effort of its own. Instead, it provides social prompts and sharing opportunities for fans and patrons at every turn. There are also ties to popular sporting events, shows like American Ninja Warrior (a few of its contestants frequent the parks), and pop culture. These highly sharable tidbits encourage participants to share, and potential customers to come in and join in on the fun. Some like Superfly use Snapchat (SuperflyChatt), others like Area51 have significant Facebook followings.

Naturally, CircusTrix isn't the first company with the social sharing vision, but this is a strategy worth emulating. Nearly three-quarters of all online adults are on Facebook, and almost 90 percent of those are 18-29. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are surging with teens who are over-eager to share every experience with those around them.

Believe it or not, they likely more adept at reaching their friends (the rest of your target demographic) than advertising or marketing efforts on TV, print, or even online are.

Mind Your Voice

Millennials crave authenticity and passion behind a message. They want quick, relevant content snippets--especially video.

"Guy Smiley is dead," said Lawrence. "The generic or institutional voice will not work. Millennials want an authentic and raw voice."

Remember that this generation appreciates subtle, clever and sophisticated brand messages. Inside jokes are okay. Esoteric and pop culture references are also fair game.

. . .

So the big secret isn't actually that big of a secret after all. In this day and age, smart companies let their patrons do their marketing for them. A good place to start can be found in your pocket: your phone, and the variety of social apps on them.

Lawrence's solution to the millennial marketing question? Let them do the heavy lifting.

Published on: Jun 2, 2016