- - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Millennials make up a trillion-dollar demographic, according to a 2014 study by Accenture. Their estimated spending is close to $600 billion, and they possess more than 20 percent of consumer discretionary purchase power.

As the Accenture report so simply stated, millennials are a consumer force to be reckoned with. No wonder brands are trying so desperately to connect with this age group.

What should you know to successfully market to this demographic? Or, perhaps equally important, to attract the best and brightest of this generation to choose to go to work for you instead of your competitor?

According to a recent article in Search Engine Journal, millennials want to “participate” with a brand’s marketing. Similarly, they want to “align themselves with an authentic cause.”

I think the use of the word “authentic” is the key part of that discovery. To millennials, you don’t have to be amazing. But you do have to be authentic.

So what does being authentic mean? Matthew Tyson wrote on The Huffington Post in 2015 that millennials “are not moved by flashy ads, big promises, and ‘wow’ factor. They want authentic messages, authentic brands, and authentic interactions.”

To become more authentic, Tyson suggested that companies do a better job of communicating (social media), being transparent (show what happens behind the scenes), being relevant (align with millennial wants and needs), and care (show that you provide something of value to the world). Hey, nobody said this was going to be easy.

Who is effectively doing all that? SEJ’s Mindy Weinstein compiled a list of 10 brands that get millennial marketing right specifically by being authentic. One of her primary examples is Uber.

“Millennials are all about sharing, specifically a sharing economy,” she wrote. “Unlike some of the older generations, millennials are not as into cars, but they are into convenience, and Uber knows it. Uber has encompassed both of these trends into its service and marketing strategy and makes it incredibly easy to find a ride and pay for it using its smartphone app.”

How did Uber so deftly hit the mark? As Weinstein succinctly posited, the company “knew their target market, focused on convenience, and offered something unique.” (It doesn’t hurt that the company also takes an out-of-the-box approach to marketing, evidenced for example by a recent campaign on National Cat Day allowing app users to have kittens delivered to their house…)

Weinstein’s takeaways from her study of companies that “get” millennials are important. For those still in the dark, she offers these suggestions:

1. Create an experience in which millennials can participate.

2. Develop content that encourages “shares.”

3. Provide millennials with the opportunity to live the story with your brand.

4. Align your brand with a cause, so that millennials will align with you.

5. Recognize the evolving lifestyles of millennials and don’t be afraid to change with them.

6. Disrupt the market with an innovative approach to pricing and marketing.

7. Increase brand loyalty by embracing trends and joining in the fun.

8. Allow your customers to contribute to your marketing and be involved in the development of a new product line.

9. Create ads that speak directly to a personal moment in a millennial’s life.

10. Go where the millennials are (social and mobile).

11. Focus on a product or service that is convenient for millennials.

12. Offer something that speaks to the millennial’s desire for uniqueness.

13. Make your product personal and customizable.

14. Solve a need for millennials and create a marketing message to back it up.

“Above all else,” she concludes, “have some fun with it!”

Again, from a marketing standpoint, or a corporate culture standpoint, your brand or company doesn’t need to be amazing; instead, in the mind of a millennial, it needs to be authentic. Because if any generation encapsulates the opportunity of being authentic, it is the millennial generation.

To me, the way that you become authentic is by understanding your unique perspective (how you see what you do), you’re unique education (how you know what you do), and your unique experience (how you deliver and connect to what you do).

This generation, certainly unlike the generation before it (and the one before that!) has far more unique perspective, education, and experience. They’ve been exposed to a much bigger world than we ever were as a result of unprecedented economic progress, technological advances, and social media.

The challenge for company leaders and chief marketers alike is to get millennials to see that difference and advantage and to use that to help them (and you) connect to the opportunities that are in the marketplace to be successful. The more authentic you are to their experience, the more connected they will be to your product or service.

Forget amazing. Be authentic and you will resonate with this generation.

The same is true when millennials are searching for meaningful work. Millennials are looking for companies that truly represent a strong point of view. It’s no wonder that companies that possess that (think Apple, Chick-fil-A, and Southwest Airlines) have employees that authentically connect not only to their role within the company but also within the culture of that company that ultimately defines the success of the company.

How is Southwest authentic? Is it their content? The way they present themselves? No, it is their perspective, education, and experience. It’s a profit sharing company that has fun and loves what they do. Founder Herb Kelleher said Southwest was successful for two reasons — they have fun at what they do and they love everybody. According to Kelleher, when you have fun with your employees and customers and when your employees love each other and love your customers you can make so much money you can’t count it all.

Millennials are attracted to brands that have fun. They disrupt the market their approach is authentic.

And to millennials, being authentic is what’s amazing.

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