Thoughts 13.06.13

Get your ticket into the world of millennials

Head of Planning, David Howard, gives an insight into the most misunderstood generational cohort – millennials.

A lot of marketers struggle to resonate with millennials and when you delve a little deeper, you can see why. They belong to the most distracted generation in history with more devices, channels and ways to share their thoughts, and more likes and beliefs than ever before.

Millennials – the generation that came of age around 2000 and are now aged 18 – 30 – have grown up in a connected world. They are constant users of mobile phones, games consoles, tablets, laptops and connected TVs, and have a thirst for sharing, social media and messaging. In theory that should make them easy to reach with brand messages, but they have an uncanny knack for screening out any message that fails to help them build their social media presence. They demand a level of choice and control in their dealings with brands that makes them extremely exacting. Having grown up in a connected world, they expect their opinions to be listened to. On top of that, they insist on quick access to what they need to know and will expect your brand to edit their choices simply. No pressure then.

I’ve spent the last decade or so helping brands like Guinness, United Biscuits, Carlsberg, and Somersby connect with millennials – the millennial male in particular – and although it’s no easy task, it does have its rewards. I’ve witnessed a fundamental shift in values between the baby boomers and millennial males. As the Pew Research Global Millennium Study put it in 2012: “They are ethnically more diverse, upbeat, always connected, possessing multiple modes of self-expression, better informed, relatively more liberal, more tolerant and capable of instant opinion.”

Today’s young generation measure social success in terms of flexibility, adaptability, responsiveness and community. They live in a digital world of limitless and potentially infinite connections. Where the baby boomers valued ‘open-mindedness’, there has been a subtle shift towards respecting ‘curiosity’. A personality trait such as ‘agreeableness’ has morphed into ‘communing’, while the idea of ‘conscientiousness’ has given way to ‘trust’. In short, the millennials are looking to socially commune, to make meaningful connections that are fruitful, both face-to-face and via technology. But being connected is not simply a technological or media issue, it is a social dynamic. Marketers can get confused by the technology – just remember, it is a means to an end, which is to build a wide-ranging social presence, rather than an end in itself. Millennials see digital communication as an extension of their professional and social selves, and as a result, this has transformed their relationships with brands.

Our Carlsberg Fan Academy work supporting the brand’s England football team sponsorship is a good example of a campaign that invites consumers to join in and contribute. Using humour and some deeply geeky football knowledge that only true fans would understand, we made the campaign shareable and generated discussion. It has since become one of the most shared football ads of all time.

At its most basic level, marketing to millennials is about creating communications that encourage communal behaviour and contribute to the individual’s positive self-image. Marketers who start to understand that will earn an entry ticket into their world.

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