Marketing to millennials is something that we think about a lot at Wander. Companies typically work with us because they’re having trouble cracking the lucrative millennial generation, and they know that we can help them finally do so.
Trying not to spend a lot of money when attempting to win over millennials is one of the key ingredients for millennial marketing success. This is because if you have stricter budget constraints, you’re likely going to have to create more authentic assets because you will need to do things in a slightly more scrappy way.
Authenticity is how you capture and engage millennials. When you throw money at an idea that you believe will help you win over millennials, you will flop. You will flop because it will be obvious that you’re trying too hard. When you’re trying too hard to push a message you will either come off as ‘just another brand’ or even potentially desperate looking.
Instead of accidentally coming off as desperate or ‘just another brand’, focus on ways to be endearing - don’t focus so heavily on the end result of selling more product.
Obviously, selling more is the core of millennial marketing, but don’t do it forcefully. If you make the consumer relationship progress more naturally, it will be easier to tap into millennial wallets.
Tapping into millennial wallets by forming lasting relationships will pay off huge dividends. For example, in the United States, 83 million millennials make up the largest percentage of working adults in the country. Focusing on (and winning over) the millennial generation is something vital that business leaders should be doing if they want to flourish and thrive in the future (here’s a deck I’ve created to get the ideas flowing).
Since a vast array of brands are chasing the millennial generation so hard, we’ve naturally witnessed some truly cringeworthy attempts at marketing to them. Companies have been flat out inappropriate and offensive, or even just created boring and dull content.
Let’s examine some of these horrifyingly bad marketing attempts, so that you don’t accidentally do similar things:
1. Budweiser is #UpForWhatever
Budweiser made quite the marketing fail when attempting to create messaging aimed at millennials for its Bud Light product. The company created a campaign called #UpForWhatever that ended up telling people to remove the word ‘no’ from their vocabulary.
The tagline was clearly meant to promote a positive idea along the lines of, ‘you can do anything you want!’ However, having a ‘don’t say no’ message printed on alcohol is clearly an awful idea. People accused the company of (accidentally) promoting rape.
The moral of the Bud Light story: Don't write things on alcohol that promote the idea of not accepting ‘no’ as an answer - your company does not want to be seen to be promoting rape.
2. Bic’s National Women’s Day fail
On National Women's Day, Bic South Africa on Facebook published with an ad that read: "Look like a girl, Act like a lady, Think like a man, Work like a boss."
Likely, Bic was trying too hard to try to capture an aspirational millennial audience. The company was probably looking at the big picture and unwittingly forgot to look at their marketing efforts on a granular level.
After garnering a huge amount of social media criticism, the company apologised (kind of). The company stated that they were wrong, but tried to somewhat pass the blame on by saying the post was inspired by a blog post about women in business.
The moral of the Bic story: Don’t tell women to think like a man, especially on National Women’s Day - and if you do, apologise.
3. IHOP's sexism
I have no clue how this got through the marketing barriers of a major brand. The people at IHOP who thought this social media strategy would work were dead wrong.
This social media “campaign” feels like one of two things happened: Either an intern with too much power working at IHOP thought this was funny and somehow got it approved or somebody old thought this was relatable to millennials and pushed it through.
The restaurant chain got a lot of heat for these posts on various social media and ended up releasing an apology quickly.
The moral of IHOP story: Don’t be sexist. 50 per cent of consumers are one gender and you don’t want to alienate half of your audience.
How to get it right
While it’s easy to fail at millennial marketing, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to do it right. To do millennial marketing right, just keep the following notions in mind:
- Be authentic.
- Don’t try too hard.
- Don’t obsess about the product you’re selling, but rather focus on why people should want to buy it and be part of your brand.
- Don't underestimate the potential of the millennial consumer.
- Spend a lot of time learning about millennial behaviors and trends.
Whether you’re a start-up or a global brand, targeting millennials is something that needs to be done if you’re serious about growing your company.
Is your company winning over millennails? If so, I’d love to hear how you are in the comment section.