The search for the “real Millennial” continues like an episode of Deadliest Catch. In that popular show, the pursuers relentlessly target their prey with a bevy of resources and the benefit of past year’s experience as their principal assets. The prey continues to live their lives, indifferent to the efforts of their pursuers to identify and target them.
So it seems with marketers and the Millennials or Generation Y. Marketers churn out Top 10 lists, identifying key elements needed for success in Millennial marketing. The hope is that by aligning resources to these characteristics, the brands we serve can gain the attention of Millennials, persuading them to change their buying behaviors.
Millennials aren’t necessarily seeking this level of attention from marketers, they just live as digital natives do, responding in a natural manner to bargains and offers for their favorite products when they pop up in their preferred social and communication channels.
On the surface, it seems nothing has changed for marketers. There is still an element of delivering the “right message at the right time to the right person in the right channel”, though it seems the matrix of possibilities has expanded. In a head-nod to this concept, I’ve adopted the view that achieving “Social Loyalty” with consumers is not a new field, it is an extended continuum of data-driven customer marketing that is blessed with more avenues for customer communication.
While I believe this loose definition of Social Loyalty is generally on target, I’d be missing the boat if I advocated that traditional value propositions could simply be deployed in additional channels in order to successfully engage Millennials. Today we know that value propositions can be more heavily weighted with incentives to tap intrinsic behavioral triggers, and that Millennials (and many they have influenced in neighboring generations) draw conclusions about brands based on a variety of incentive models. Effectively, we now live in a world where competition, recognition, status, influence, and achievement can be situated as the centerpiece of a value proposition, opening the door to achieve desired marketing results at lower costs to any brand. This may represent the ongoing convergence of Gamification and Loyalty Marketing, or within my definition of Contextual Loyalty, it implies that you treat customers as the human beings they truly are.
My greatest source of insight into the Millennial mind has been found by working with one on a business improvement project over the past year.
In pursuit of business process improvement for our consulting and marketing agency Hanifin Loyalty, we have sought out tools to help manage social media marketing, accounting, CRM, sales and project management, even language skills. The key associate leading the charge to find new tools in each of these areas is a card carrying member of the Millennial generation.
The discovery process has been fascinating to me:
- There is no pre-disposition about what we should buy or what should even be in the consideration set.
- Google is the giant pond that we fish in, and all things are possible.
- Cloud based services rule the day, and the flexibility of service plans and lower costs associated with these services means that we test, test and test some more before making any long term commitments.
- Commitments made are based on a blend of experience, satisfaction, and hands-on user testing.
- The rational elements of decision are cemented by an emotional component formed from the holistic evaluation of a product and service offer.
We’ve landed on a portfolio of tools that includes Buffer, Insightly, Freshbooks, Uber (the conference service, not the taxi operator) and continue to evaluate others including Sharpspring, Duolingo and Canva.
The thought process that influenced this selection of tools started with an absolute blank sheet of white paper. Transparency and straight talk from vendors were attributes that stimulated our engagement, and strong customer service and online tools hastened our speed down the path to making a decision.
In the end, the value of each tool was determined through identification of tangible value, while the elements of time savings and the satisfaction of knowing that we had found something that was slightly off traditional radars were influencers. While we might have thought we were creating competitive advantage by selecting a new toolset, we understand that it is how you put these tools to use rather than the tools themselves that constitutes that competitive advantage. Therefore, we don’t mind sharing names here.
There are a number of parallels to draw from this process to put to use in successfully engaging and creating brand loyalty with Millennials. I’ll let you connect the dots in your own way, but one lesson is clear – the old saw of “walking in the Indian’s moccasins” to truly understand their circumstances was never more applicable than with Millennials. And while I can’t exactly walk in someone else’s shoes, I can choose to work with them to improve my understanding of their decision making process.