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Marketing to Millennials: 6 Steps to Engagement

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History has demonstrated that the appearance of conferences, books and self-proclaimed “experts” on a new topic are leading indicators of an emerging “hot” trend. “Leading” is the key word here and sometimes the hype, best practices, and top 10 lists are launched for trends that, in the end, never make it to prime-time.

Marketing to Generation Y is a topic of great importance as the 80 Million+ group of increasingly influential consumers attract lots of attention in the market. I have been watching, listening, and learning to gain insight into what it will take to engage a conversation with Gen Y and create brand affinity over the long term, if it is possible to do so at all.

While I’ve been working, I’ve bit my lip as I see a number of folks claiming to be the next Millennial Marketing guru. I tip my hat to all who are playing in this sandbox, but am humble enough to know what I know and don’t know.

While I won’t agree that there is a best practice list for Millennial Marketing that can be stamped with any degree of authority, I can offer a stake in the sand based on my work to date.

6 Steps to starting the conversation with Generation Y:

  1. Meet them where they are – Refrain from traditional message blasting, sell less, share more information, and offer lifehacks related to or enabled by your product or service.
  2. Minimize the Loyalty Asterisk™ – Cleanse the fine print, the myriad of conditions blasted in the final seconds of a radio ad, the stuff that deflates consumer enthusiasm and builds skepticism about your brand. If you can’t construct a clean and easy to understand offer, go back to the drawing board.
  3. Position your brand as a Trusted Advisor – Don’t just sell them your product, teach them how to use it. If you approve Gen Y for a credit card, tell them about Universal Default. If you offer them a Debit Card, tell them about the $35 burrito (ask me about that one later).
  4. Fulfill the promise of Data – Through social networks and social media tools, the promise of “1 to 1” marketing may finally be affordable. Banks, airlines, and others already possess vast stores of customer data which have been underutilized to large degree. Let’s put the data to work to deliver personalized offers and build brand credibility.
  5. Don’t try to rationalize the need – Anytime you are in a meeting and someone trashes the entire genre of social media, call a timeout. We don’t have to understand why Gen Y loves Facebook and Twitter, we just need to understand how our brands fit in. They think differently than we do…you don’t have to “get it”, just “do it”.
  6. Don’t forget everything you learned – Financial and predictive models underscore any successful marketing strategy. Remain attentive to traditional financial models.
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