Reaching millennials requires developing an understanding of what they value and where they go to find it. A millennial and expert marketer discusses his experience in doing exactly that.
Many businesses strive to reach and influence millennials, the demographically dominant generation born between the late 1970s and the mid-to-late 1990s. Charlie Grinnell, Head of Social Media at Aritzia and former Global Social Media Manager at Red Bull, counsels against relying on traditional content and delivery methods to capture these consumers. Meeting their expectations depends on leveraging digital and social media.
In a recent global conference call hosted by YPO’s Digital Marketing and Media Network and YNG+, Grinnell shares five key lessons he has learned about how businesses can capture the attention of millennials.
The right culture
Many senior leaders are open to trusting millennial employees, but they have to earn it. “We have to be willing to take a risk and face the possible discomfort that can follow,” says Grinnell. “I have been lucky to work with leaders who are willing to ask a millennial about marketing to millennials. Of course, not all companies are targeting that audience. But if your business is trying to attract millennials, it is silly not to listen to a millennial.” All new ideas still have to meet the basic requirements: support of business objectives and an acceptable ROI.
The right channels
There are internal and external elements in finding the right channels to reach millennials. Internally, discover who in your organization has a good understanding of the millennial customer. Diversity is a good start. “At Red Bull, I was included with a variety of employees in discussing what millennials want because of my age: I was one of the youngest employees reporting to senior leadership,” Grinnell explains. “I took a similar approach in building my team there: it represented 19 nationalities and several age groups. I knew if I could tap into what a subset of those people were thinking, I would gain valuable perspectives.”
On the external side, really listen to your audience. Always closely monitor any content you put out and the reaction to it. “Everyone has a hypothesis about what millennials want, but you need facts — so, dive into your data,” Grinnell adds.
As for specific channels, stories (as on Instagram and Snapchat) are not going away. New platforms Grinnell is watching include Musical.ly and TBH. The channels you use should be driven by your brand and your audience.
The biggest mistakes
One of the biggest mistakes marketers make about millennials is thinking they actually know what they want, based on minimal research. You have to get to know your audience and recognize how diverse they are. One size does not fit all. “Instead of investing all your campaign budget in one big video, create five smaller ones and watch the response to each,” Grinnell says. “Content consumption is a very subjective thing. You have to tailor your solutions.”
Not being nimble is another mistake. A lot of the best brands now are not necessarily the ones that plan far in advance; they are the ones that move quickly to respond to a situation. “At Red Bull, we so respected the value of quick response that we changed our approach to business planning: We started committing only about half of our budget upfront to projects and we set aside the rest for unforeseen opportunistic activities,” Grinnell says.
The two biggest lessons
Brands must value millennials’ time as much as the millennials do, which is a lot. Brands must also deliver value — not just direct product messages, but pertinent education, information and entertainment. Customers may not buy something today, but they will leave your site with a positive feeling and remember you when they are ready to purchase.
Finally, companies must focus on customer service. “We can no longer afford to wait a day or two to resolve a customer’s problem,” Grinnell says. “Our response must be immediate. Good customer service is not good enough; it must be great. Millennials expect it, and their expectations have driven everyone else’s expectations as well. Going above and beyond is — or should be, for companies seeking millennial customers — the new normal.”