“It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at Facebook ads – millennial consumers aren’t going to bite unless you do away will all this elitist corporate party line crap!” I (exasperatedly) expressed to an old school business exec.
“We are not deviating from the proven safe zone. I know you’re pretty new to business, but in my forty years of experience, standard corporate messaging always works. Consumers don’t fear what you don’t tell them,” he replied.
“Well in the forty years you’ve experienced, millennials weren’t holding majority purchasing power. You want a piece of the millennial market? You have to speak their language – and the cloudy communications strategy your company’s been employing won’t work, “ I replied.
Millennial Hate Advertisements – Even Those on Social Media
I honestly can’t recall the last time I bought something based on a TV or radio commercial.
I can’t recall the last time a print ad left an impression on me (it’s been years since I bought a newspaper).
In 20 years of using the Internet, I don’t think I’ve ever clicked on a banner ad.
In my house, all junk mail goes (unopened) directly in the recycle bin.
Research shows that millennials are immune to traditional ad placement, with only 1% indicating that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more (Millennial Branding).
So what does that leave us? Social media, influencer content, blogging – all formerly discounted digital strategies reserved for garage-band style start-ups with no working capital.
But are these 21st century strategies enough to cultivate millennial patronage? Will spending thousands of dollars on spammy Facebook ads (like the exec you encountered at the beginning of this article) work on millennials? Will having the undergrad interns man your organization’s Twitter and Google + feeds spell
S-U-C-C- E-S-S for a social strategy?
Engagement is Essential
In 2015, Forbes reported, “62% of millennials say that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer. They expect brands to not only be on social networks, but to engage them.”
Did you catch that?
“…expect brand to not only be on social networks, but to engage them.”
Engage – not sell to. Not scam. Not talk down to. Not freeze out with corporate mumbo jumbo.
Millennial consumers craze engaging transparency from the brands they patronize. They want to know they are dealing with real people – people that care, people with lives (outside the cubicle), people that won’t screw again like the faceless corrupt corporations of yesteryear.
Engagement = Transparency
Still bleeding from the effects of 9/11 meltdown, millennials don’t trust anyone (or any organization) that looks, sounds, or acts like anything 1990/early 2000’s. Millennials watched “successful” organizations lay off their parents, established financial institutions foreclose on their childhood home, trusted education system in debt them for degrees that don’t land jobs, and fought the longest war in American history for a government that’s proven over and over doesn’t give a hoot about them.
After losing trust in all things “established” – from corporations to government – millennials believe organizational transparency is the best way to prevent another WorldCom scandal or another Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac induced mortgage bubble bust.
But won’t we lose control?
“We can’t be transparent – we’ll lose all control!” a concerned client reacted to my recommendation of a more authentic and genuine digital presence for his established organization.
Tightly controlled corporate communications have been the norm for over a hundred years. Journey back past Peter Drucker and Henri Fayol, and consider the development of tightly controlled information as a tenet of successful management. It wasn’t founded in the Information Age. It wasn’t founded in the era of skeptism. It wasn’t founded by a generation that doesn’t trust anybody. It’s old school, obsolete, and quite irrelevant in our modern world.
But don’t take my word for it – listen to General Stanley McChrystal’s advocacy for organizational transparency (even the military’s) in his 2010 TED talk:
“…we changed the idea of information, instead of knowledge is power to one where sharing is power.”
Transparency is essential for trust
Want to connect with millennial consumers? Lose the sales pitch and be TRANSPARENT!
What does brand “transparency” mean?
Be real, be honest, be accountable. Millennial consumers can sniff out authenticity (or lack of) like a bloodhound. Prioritize authentic messaging, engaging social campaigns, and two-way digital convos.
Today’s consumers will only patronize brand they can trust, and transparency builds trust.
Want to learn more about millennials?
About Hannah Becker:
Hannah Becker is a millennial author, entrepreneur, and marketing consultant. She currently helps brands increase millennial market share through digital strategy and public relations. Follow Hannah on Twitter@MotivatedGenY