Brand influencer marketing and advertising are in a constant state of flux, always adapting to the needs and mindsets of each successive generation and the world in which they come of age. No generation has ever been as challenging to reach as the Millennials. We’ve developed a fascination with this diverse, digitized group of kids and young adults. We have spent thousands upon thousands of hours of research and spilled gallons of ink trying to figure out what makes the “selfie generation” tick. They’ve given birth to entirely new branches and agencies in marketing, like word of mouth campaigns, viral markets, and influence marketing agencies. They’re projected to command $200 billion in annual purchasing power by 2017…so what can your brand, big or small, do to get in on the millennial action?
Who Are the Millennials?
Definitions are the easy part, and chances are you’re already familiar with them, even if you don’t realize it. Millennials are the generation born between 1986 and 1994, ages 18 to 36 (although the exact numbers will change depending on the source.) Millennials are the kids coming of age in the new millennium. Forbes contributor and digital influence expert Daniel Newman called theme the first generation of “digital natives,” growing up with a laptop on their bed and a connection to the entire world in their pocket.
It’s that level of connectivity that make the millennials such a potent game changer for the marketing world. No previous generation has been able to communicate in the way Millennials do. Hoping to entice a Millennial gamer with the American release of a new title? While your add plays on her computer, her Twitter friend in Japan is telling her the game isn’t worth the money, and your ad has already fallen short. This generation is incredibly savvy to marketing and ads, to the point that 95 percent of them will trust the word of someone else – even a stranger – over the promises made in an ad.
Why Does Traditional Marketing Fall Short?
The nature of Millennial’s digital lives is a starting point, but it barely scratches the surface of what makes Millennial’s relationships with brands and products so different. To really understand why traditional marketing doesn’t reach this generation, we have to look closer at the world they grew up in.
“Millennials are misunderstood, in large part, because they aren’t approaching adulthood the same way that previous generations have,” CEB Iconoculture expert Kaitie Elfering told Forbes Magazine. Millennials came of age in a faltering global economy that makes many traditional life goals – wife, house, car, kids, white picket fence – unattainable for them. But many brands continue to push their products based on these milestones of past generations. Millennials as a whole aren’t interested in those classic goals: they grew up in a world of infinite possibilities, and tend to react with disdain to brands still clinging to the classics…and that isn’t likely to change.
“Brands need to stop waiting for Millennials to ‘grow up’ and fall in line with past generations,” Elfering says. Millennials are perfectly happy with their oddball life progression: they aren’t going to turn into their parents and adopt traditional buying habits any time soon.
Influencer Marketing and the Millennial Mind
Word of mouth marketing was the first big breakthrough in connecting to Millennials. In 2010, McKinsey Quarterly published a famous report that concluded word of mouth was the deciding factor in up to 50 percent of purchasing decisions. Millennials don’t just have word of mouth, either: they have word of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. If Millennials like something, they’ll share it like crazy. But it has to be creative, and it has to be good.
The revelation of word of mouth marketing finally gave rise to powerful tools to connect with Millennials. The influence marketing agency is the fastest growing branch of advertising out there, and some estimates put the return of investment as high as $6.50 for every one dollar invested in influence campaigns.
With a good influencer in your talent stable, you don’t need to understand every nuance of content that connects with Millennials: you just have to employ the talents of someone who already has that connection. Take specialty streaming service Crunchyroll’s collaboration with YouTube comedians The Game Grumps. The resulting two minute ad is so silly it borders on surreal, as Arin Hansen and Dan Avidan cheerfully make fun of themselves for ‘selling out’ (“How much are we getting paid for this?” “Eight dollars!”), but the Game Grumps 2.8 million YouTube subscribers seemed to get the joke, and cheerfully shared it across every conceivable social media network. It’s a perfect example of how the right influencer can help a brand reach an established audience of millions, with an unbeatable understanding of what will connect with their unique niche.
A Few Final Words
The best influence marketing agency understands that Millennials and their generation Z successors don’t necessarily respond to brands and milestones. What they do respond to is people and personalities. The right influencer partnership takes word-of-mouth marketing to a new level, letting you reach new audiences with more control over your message. It’s time to stop being afraid of the new generation, and embrace their way of communicating with the world.