How brands can attract millennials through conversation marketing

Millennials have grown up surrounded by advertising — more so than any other generation — and this has resulted in a shift in shopping styles and buying habits, as well as how millennials bestow loyalty and their disposable income.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that new advertising approaches are needed to attract and maintain the Gen Y clientele. It does, however, require new thinking. The Center for Generational Kinetics, for example, has shed some interesting facts about millennials – three of them stuck out for me.

For starters, millennials represent the greatest lifetime value of any customer in the marketplace. Secondly, and less surprising, millennials are most likely to refer their friends when they have a good shopping or buying experience. And finally, millennials are very loyal once they select a brand, service or company (something that is widely misunderstood).

So, how can brands and companies truly meet millennials eye-to-eye? Two words: conversation marketing.

As the term suggests, it’s about opening the lines of communication between companies and consumers. A subset of content marketing, conversation marketing ensures that a brand and/or company really taps into their audience by using marketing techniques that are focused on the consumer’s experience, all while making feedback and conversation with consumers easy and engaging.

Conversation marketing allows brands to see exactly what to change and evolve based on their audience’s needs and wants. Some brands are already using conversation marketing to their advantage such as Amazon, Google and Flickr.

This is a generation that needs to be impressed, and traditional marketing isn’t cutting it for them. As this Portent article points out, marketing in traditional media is not a conversation. Internet marketing on the other hand, allows brands to market their products through various forms of advertising, but the difference is that audience reaction and traction can be measured, allowing companies and brands to gauge and adjust their messages accordingly.

The essence of engaging in conversation marketing is to get people talking – with each other – about your brand or something the brand made relevant. You want people to have a conversation without you and about you. To get this going, you need to start with a great insight. Without a true insight, no amount of tactics will get people talking about your brand. The ideas that flow from the right insight are limitless.

When you’ve found that insight and your campaign is ready to go, you need to make sure you distribute the message properly with the right balance of paid, owned and earned media. Today, some paid media is inevitable, but what really gets a campaign moving is the earned portion. If your campaign hits the right buttons, your earned approach will tell you whether you’ve nailed it or not. The right influencers, journalists, bloggers and your biggest fans should eat it up like candy and start the organic distribution pretty quickly. If they don’t, the story is not quite right and you should adjust it before you sink the paid dollars into it.

As the conversation builds, brands need to be ready to feed the content and participate when required. One social platform is not enough, and don’t try to insert yourselves in conversations about you – unless they need clarity or you’re invited in. Just let the conversations happen and add more content to the mix so the conversation can continue.

One of my teams had a campaign earlier this year that did a good job of demonstrating how it works. We honed in on the insight that women with a spouse and kids at home have to hide their favourite snack foods – or the snacks will be gone when the time comes to enjoy them. This is not new, but no one talks about it and many women were surprised to hear they weren’t alone, making it a great topic of conversation. The earned approach was so well received that by the time the paid and owned were activated, the amplification was exponential.

Another great example that drove conversation is P&G’s Like a Girl. We all remember watching that for the first time and probably remarked, shared or asked someone about it almost immediately. It took a commonly used negative phrase, used for decades, and reminded us all what those three words do to the girls in our lives. Pretty powerful stuff.

If you think about the best parts of your Instagram or Facebook feeds today, they likely have a true insight that’s relevant and I bet you told someone about it. That’s the simple formula for success with today’s Millennials – relate with something insightful and authentic and they will share it!

Nick Cowling is president of Citizen Relations, North America


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