Hint: Emoji’s Aren’t the Answer

Marketers today give a lot of attention to millennials, and for good reason. This generation – the some 80 million people born between 1980-2000 – are the country’s largest generational group. According to a 2014 study by Accenture, they also boast a $600 billion yearly spend and are poised to become a trillion-dollar demographic as baby boomers retire. But millennials are also a unique crowd – the first truly digital generation.

As brands scramble to understand this generation, many resort to common stereotypes and end up expressing themselves in ways that fail to resonate. Here are three myths that brands should know about successfully targeting millennials and how your brand, in contrast, can achieve a long-lasting connection.

Myth 1: To engage with millennials, you have to speak their language – with hashtags, emoji’s and trendy jargon.

“Speaking like the cool crowd” is a millennial marketing tactic that many brands have tried their hand at, especially on social media accounts. Emoji’s rack up likes, right?

The fact is that millennials grew up with a global digital community and know good social media content, because they create it every day. So when it comes to advertising, they’re skeptical. According to a 2015 Forbes article, only 1% of millennials surveyed said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more.” Naturally, millennials don’t appreciate the sales-driven attitude in cheesy tweets of hashtags and emoji’s.

In contrast, relevant brands make a splash in today’s saturated market with authentic content. Instead of tactics, they focus on letting their personality and values shine through. Millennials are drawn to funny or inspiring content that naturally sparks conversation, and P&G’s #LikeAGirl campaign is a stellar example of this. By putting a positive twist on the condescending phrase, P&G raised awareness on the limits and pressure that society puts on girls. The thought-provoking campaign achieved more than 85 million global views on YouTube from 150+ countries, ultimately elevating Always to be not just a feminine products brand, but a champion of girls’ confidence.

Myth 2: Millennials are so stuck to their smartphones that they don’t interact with the real world.

A favorite stereotype is that this digitally-absorbed generation is disconnected with the outside world. This ad for Toyota Venza parodies a clueless millennial, compared to her parents who are living an active lifestyle out of the house.

In reality, being digitally-connected doesn’t mean millennials are detached from the real world, because they actually treasure real-life experiences and memories. A 2014 study by Harris showed that 69% of millennials claim to experience FOMO, which explains why more than 3 in 4 millennials today would rather spend money on experiences than tangible goods. To broadcast on social media that they’re fun and in-the-know, these millennials are actively seeking out shareworthy opportunities in the real world, whether that’s a concert, a trendy food fair, or a pop-up event by their favorite brand.

There has never been a better time to embrace experiential marketing. Smart brands know to capitalize on the millennial crowd’s enthusiasm for relevant content as well as their valuable digital influence. For example, Spotify just rolled out an ice cream truck to promote Gucci Mane’s new LP Everybody Looking, playing off of Gucci’s iconic ice cream cone face tattoo. Lipton’s Iced Tea put up a giant yellow slip ‘n slide at King’s Cross as part of its ‘Be a Daybreaker’ campaign last year, which encourages Londoners to break from their normal daily routine. Surprising and undeniably relevant moves like these easily gain buzz and love for the brand.

Myth 3: Millennials are lazy and narcissistic, and can’t be bothered to think bigger than themselves.

Millennials are often characterized as obliviously self-absorbed, as seen in this Pizza Hut commercial mocking the use of selfie sticks. But is this generation really that shallow?

In reality, millennials care more about social change than any other generation. They’re digital advocates, using social media as a platform to raise awareness for issues they care about. Moreover, millennials see social change as a part of their personal identity. They incorporate action into their everyday lives: 44% try to practice being green daily.

For brands, millennials are the perfect audience to connect with over a common purpose. By standing for something bigger, and actively expressing their purpose, brands can build a long-lasting impression with millennials. Take the socially conscious Warby Parker for example – more than its trendy, fairly-priced glasses, Warby Parker wins the hearts of its customers with its buy-a-pair, give-a-pair program. To date, Warby’s distributed more than a million pairs in developing countries while experiencing phenomenal growth as a company.

Don’t allow these myths to let your brand miss the mark with Millennials. That $600 billion yearly spend is up for the taking for brands that are socially conscious, relentlessly relevant and offer remarkable brand and customer experiences.  This post should help you better understand some key myths about millennials, and how brands should go about creating successful and lasting connections. We’d love to hear your thoughts too.

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