Millennials don't trust corporations, so it follows that they're dismissive of marketing efforts. How do they know you're not just another megacorp who's going to spill oil in the gulf, profit from endless wars, or lobby to defund their health care? And what's stopping your CEO from paying thousands of dollars to shoot exotic animals for kicks?
If you can't face the reality that corporations are responsible for some of the most damaging actions the planet has ever seen; you don't have a prayer in trying to get your marketing past the younger generation's anti-corporate filter.
Millennials are the most educated and productive American generation ever, and yet they can't seem to get ahead financially. They earn on average the same as their parents did in 1984. Yet rents have skyrocketed, leaving 70 percent of them dependent on an average of $250 a month in parental help. Most of the jobs available even to graduate level millennials are low wage, unskilled positions (often working for big corporations that pay them poorly).
So if you have a great brand identity and a watertight marketing strategy, don't insult millennials by expecting them to care! What matters most to them are things like social justice and quality of life. Especially as those are the things they see corporations taking away from them every day.
Marketers are getting desperate
Advertising specialists are tearing their hair out trying to determine how to engage millennials in consumer marketing campaigns. Brands have tripled their content creation in the past 12 months, inundating social media channels in the hopes of catching millennial eyes. But getting the attention of Gen-Y is no easy feat.
And interestingly, there has been next to no increase in consumer engagement. In fact, millennials remain actively disengaged from marketing efforts. Only 2.11 percent of branded Facebook content ever sees the light of day. Facebook, of course, is happy to gobble up your advertising dollars, but the concept of organic reach is steadily dwindling. When faced with a bleak panorama such as this, what's a company to do?
Let your customers speak for you
You've got a great brand. You're working for positive change in the world. And you're providing something meaningful to consumers without pillaging the environment in the process. That's a good start. But what if instead of telling your story, you let your millennial audience tell theirs? That's the idea behind user-generated content (UGC), one of the few marketing strategies that has succeeded in engaging a millennial base.
English fashion house Burberry launched their Art of the Trench campaign, a platform for fashionistas to upload pictures of themselves sporting trenchcoats of all styles in every kind of weather. By allowing customers to show off their personal styles, instead of the company showing style to them, Burberry revitalized its aging brand and saw a 50 percent surge in sales.
This campaign and others like it have worked because the majority of millennials want more ways to share their opinions and buying experiences. 68 percent are more likely to make a purchase after seeing a friend's post, and 84 percent say UGC, even when contributed by strangers, influences what they buy.
Showcase consumer opinions
Millennials share because they trust consumer opinions, and believe that others trust theirs. Authentic opinions, like customer reviews unedited by the company (even for grammar or spelling mistakes) are by far the most trustworthy. So don't micromanage your results! And resist the urge to get your editing hat on.
Your strategy should be to showcase consumer opinions as they are. Put them everywhere. Solid UGC campaigns have worked for some of the world's biggest brands, including Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and Apple. They work regularly for smaller, more intimate niche brands as well - as long as you use the momentum of UGC to build up consumer opinions, and make them the focal point of your digital media and campaigns.
A great example is the "Monopoly Mo Selfies" campaign, which combined the nostalgic board game with the ever-popular mobile pastime of (you guessed it) taking selfies. With this campaign, McDonalds was able to drive increased engagement, renew awareness for their decades old promotion, and gather a wealth of relevant UGC to be used across their owned and paid digital channels.
"In order to reach Millennials, today's brands are starting to understand they need to market with people as opposed to marketing at them," says Peter Cassidy, co-founder of Stackla, whose numerous global customers such as McDonald's, Jimmy Choo, and Disney use their UGC platform to create authentic brand experiences. "User-generated content is an abundant, rich source of inherently authentic and trustworthy content that resonates with consumers, and it can be an effective and scalable approach for brands that have the right tools in place."
Remember, boomers go to stores, but millennials shop digitally. So tailor your digital content around customer stories, and let your them do your marketing work for you. If they like your product, they will be glad to share it. And when you win millennial customers, they're more likely than any other demographic maintain brand loyalty.
Get creative with UGC
Don't limit yourself to starting a hashtag. Try something more creative, like FOX did when partnering with Snapchat to promote X-Men: Apocalypse. With a sponsored lens, users could take X-Men themed selfies and share them with their friends. This UGC strategy gained them 298 million views and 251 million plays. That's an 84 percent engagement rate! Try getting those numbers with a boring old Facebook ad.
Thankfully, with UGC you can stop beating your head against the marketing wall and start putting your advertising dollars where they will actually work. Millennials may not trust corporations, but they do trust each other. And they love to share.