Are your online marketing efforts missing the mark with Millenials?


Millennials are an enigmatic target market. As a group, they carry much economic power, but are difficult to define, despite being constantly and actively pursued by both local and international marketers.

Despite these marketers doing extensive analysis of this age group, a brief internet search shows how varied, and often conflicting, research results are about who Millennials are and what they want. There are, however, a few common characteristics that emerge.

The net for defining Millennials is wide, with anyone between the ages of 18-35 qualifying for this target market bracket. Millennials live their lives online and as a result are highly resistant to push marketing and advertising jargon. They set the bar high for brands to gain their attention and to win their appreciation.

McDonald’s Global Chief Brand Officer Steve Easterbrook famously called them ‘promiscuous’ in their brand loyalty, reflecting his brand’s struggle to remain relevant to Millennials. Millennials engage with smart, funny content that piques their curiosity and holds their interest. Hyper-targeted content is key and they place a high premium on recommendations from friends.

Another interesting element is that Millennials are extremely interested in the social action that companies are involved with. Companies can actually engage markets and build loyalty by showing that they are socially aware and involved in social or environmental action projects.

Unsurprisingly, Millennials also spend most of their time on their phones. They’re glued to their screens, checking their smartphones a whopping 43 times a day. This is supported by the fact that 63% of Millennials are as comfortable, or more comfortable, with mobile advertising as they are with TV or online advertising.

Despite Millennials including a broad range of people, the most important thing to understand is that the way they want to be engaged by companies is different to generations that were won over by traditional advertising models.

The Cluetrain Manifesto, a compilation of theses published in 1999 to help companies understand the way people want to be marketed to in the 21st century, was one of the forerunners to point out that online markets would have to engage their audiences in a completely new way online. Many of the ideas in the manifesto have become the norm for how Millennials engage with brands.

It’s a good thing that brands are taking note of the change in tone that needs to be implemented when speaking to Millennials. Millennials want companies to be transparent and authentic about what they do and how they do it. A good example of a brand reaching Millennials effectively by implementing these values is US fast food retailer Chipotle.

The restaurant chain supports responsible farming practices and sources organic produce and meat that does not contain added hormones. It has showcased its farming methods in two very successful online videos, both of which were first aired on YouTube. Back to the Start (2011) and The Scarecrow (2013) aim to prompt consumers to think about where their food comes from.

Back to the Start, in particular, won several awards and had over 4-million views on YouTube in a few months. In addition to portraying an authentic story that focuses on sustainability and environmental awareness, the production quality of the video is high and the additional features such as the soundtrack appeal to a Millennial audience. Chipotle’s corporate image is also boosted by the fact that it styles itself as a company that is willing “to have a conversation with anyone”.

The success of these videos in connecting the brand with its Millennial target market is clear, with Chipotle ranked as the number one favourite fast food brand of Millennials in 2014.

Millennials’ cynicism about big corporations, as well as their native digital savviness, make them a complex audience. But, as Chipotle’s videos show, when brands speak to Millennials in an authentic voice, using original and creative concepts, the potential for engagement and brand loyalty is huge.



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