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Marketing to Millennials: demystifying a generation

Generation Y is enormous and their buying power is rapidly increasing, leaving marketers scrambling to reach them. The big secret is to treat them like Millennials instead of getting frustrated that they’re not Boomers.

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Reaching the Millennial generation

Generation Y, also known as Millennials, were born between 1980 and 1995, and already outnumber Baby Boomers and out power their parents in spending power, so marketers are salivating over how to reach this generation who values the opinions of strangers online equally to the opinions of their friends and family. How does a brand market to Millennials in this environment? The first step is understanding the most common traits of the generation.

The most obvious trait is that Millennials grew up with technology, so they are hard to impress by touting that you have a website, no, that is expected of your business. Many technologies are taken for granted, and in some cases, being shed over time, like television, which most Millennials do not watch, rather stream through the web. It is not uncommon for a Millennial to own multiple technological devices or to have paid a great deal of money on them, and the generation average $24.74 spent on coffee drinks, having grown up with a Starbucks on every corner, meanwhile their professional counterparts over the age of 45 spend an average of $14.15 per week.

The generation is known to be altruistic, generous, concerned with the environment and their impact on the world, but are also impatient and value a fast experience over a lengthy customer service endeavor. Born as technology multi-taskers, the generation is wired to be constantly in a hurry and struggles to pay 100 percent attention to any one task, and are conditioned to receive thousands, if not millions of brand messages every day, so cutting through the noise is increasingly difficult. Almost all Millennials are on Facebook, and the majority have “liked” brands they favor on the social network.

Some say that Millennials have a sense of entitlement, and although few studies support that thus far, it is easy to see how a generation where every child got a trophy for participating is struggling to find their comfort zone in the work force. For this and many other reasons, it is not uncommon for Millennials to become entrepreneurs as many do not feel that they fit into a corporate structure.

As a creative generation, marketers are having to find more creative ways to reach these buyers, many resorting to humor. Some are saying that Millennials require advertisements to be flashy and shiny, but the rise of the Apple products should show you that the generation can actually be quite minimalist.

Millennials are also a moving target for marketers, because the American Dream has shifted. Millennials are not ashamed to rent, are waiting until their 30s to get married and have children, and value creative perks at work over traditional vacation time structures.

There is no magic bullet for Millennials, the generation is still defining itself, but the most successful marketers tap into the wisdom of the generation rather than insulting them, and doesn’t try to force them to fit into their idea that all buyers are Boomers. Honesty, cleverness, and rapidness reign right now, but it is a moving target and in five years could look quite different.

Related reading

AGBeat has been writing about marketing to Millennials for years, and there has been a lot of exciting research published on the topic. Below is a selection of 12 useful articles for your consumption:

  1. 8 products Millennials will not buy in the future
  2. Millennials are more difficult to reach, but respond well to creative ads
  3. Technology has made Millennials impatient yet more complex thinkers
  4. How Millennials are conditioned to be entrepreneurs
  5. Why Millennials rely on friends’ and online strangers’ advice equally
  6. Millennials learning from their Boomer parents’ mistakes
  7. Portrait of the new Millennial businesswoman
  8. The ultimate guide to reaching Millennials
  9. Generation Starbucks
  10. Millennials are migrating into the city
  11. Millennials highly educated, highly underemployed: how they’ll absorb housing
  12. Millennials are well studied, but can still be persuaded

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. BenchmarkEmail

    May 14, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Great post! I do so much writing about marketing, that it’s weird to read about how I am being marketing to.

  2. Pingback: Millennials' attitudes towards possessions differ from other generations - AGBeat

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Business Marketing

TINA.org is helping the FTC crack down on Kardashian-esque influencers

(MARKETING NEWS) The Kardashians are just five of the seemingly endless amounts of influencers companies are using for marketing but TINA.org is over their tactics.

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A brand could find no better influencers than the Kardashians – the family who proved that you can get famous just for, well, being famous. Each Kardashian sister has an astronomical number of followers, making them obvious trendsetters.

That’s why brands pay the Kardashian sisters – Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie — tens of thousands of dollars a pop to post pictures of themselves on social media using their products.

Perhaps you find it hard to believe that the Kardashians stop by Popeye’s Chicken to grab a to-go meal before boarding their private jet. Regardless, the Kardashians, and the brands who pay them to pump their products, would prefer that you believe that these endorsements reflect the Kardashian’s actual preferences, rather than the paychecks they receive for posting them.

The Kardashians have been attempting to make their endorsements seem more “authentic” by totally disregarding Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules that require influencers to disclose when their posts are paid endorsements.

In August of 2016, Truth in Advertising (TINA.org) filed a complaint about the Kardashians to the FTC, saying that the (in)famous sisters had “failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose material connections to brands or the fact that the posts were paid ads, as required by federal law.”

After receiving a finger-wagging from the FTC, the Kardashian sisters corrected less than half of the posts, generally by adding #ad to the post. The remaining posts, according to a recent TINA.org follow-up investigation, either have not been edited at all, or contain “insufficient disclosures.”

For example, some posts now read #sp to indicated “sponsored” – as if anyone knows that reference. In another tactic that also got Warner Brothers and YouTube influencer PewDiePie in trouble with the FTC, the Kardashians are posting their disclosure information at the bottom of a long post so that users will only see it if they click “see more.”

The Kardashians have also been posting disclosures, but only days after the original post. Considering that the vast majority of viewers comment on or like posts within the first ten hours after it’s published, most of them will never see the disclosure when it’s tacked on days later.

Some of the “repeat offender” brands, who came up both in last year’s complaint and in the recent review, include Puma, Manuka Doctor, Jet Lux, Fit Tea, and Sugar Bear Hair. This time around, the Kardashians have also failed to disclose sponsorship on posts promoting Adidas, Lyft, Diff Eyewear, and Alexander Wang.

TINA.org found over 200 posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat where products are promoted without the Kardashians letting on that their raking in big bucks in exchange. The organization has notified the Kardashians, the brands they represent, and the FTC.

The FTC has recently been cracking down on deceptive influencer marketing, targeting not only the brands, but the influencers themselves.

In April, the FTC sent letters to 46 social media stars reminding them of their legal obligations to disclose, and followed up with 21 letters in September warning the influencers that they had until the end of the month to disclose sponsorships, or face legal consequences.

“The Kardashian/Jenner sisters are masterful marketers who are making millions of dollars from companies willing to turn a blind eye to the women’s misleading and deceptive social media marketing practices,” says TINA.org’s Executive Director Bonnie Patten. “It’s time the Kardashians were held accountable for their misdeeds.”

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Business Marketing

Dove dropped the olive branch with new ad campaign

(MARKETING NEWS) With any ad campaign there will be misses but take a note from Dove’s playbook and learn how to not repeat mistakes.

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dove ad

Dove’s latest Facebook ad really hit the mark for whitewashing in advertising. The ad, since removed, essentially implied their soap could turn a black woman into a clean white woman.

In a three-second video on the company’s Facebook page, three women transformed into the next when they removed their shirts. The first transition caused an uproar: a woman of color lifting a brown top over her head to reveal a different woman, who is very, very white.

Although the white woman then lifts her shirt to reveal another woman with darker hair and a darker skin tone, the initial transformation is problematic in its implications of whiteness as cleanliness.

Dove has since removed the ad and issued an apology, stating in a tweet “In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused. The feedback that has been shared is important to us and we’ll use it to guide us in the future.”

Wait, haven’t we been here before? At this point you’d think skin care companies would have realized a little more delicacy is required when rolling out ad campaigns. Remember Nivea’s disastrous, short-lived “White is Purity” mishap? How about Dove’s other blunder in their 2011 VisibleCare ad?

These featured another series of three women standing in front of close-ups of skin, with the darker skinned woman in front of the “before” label, and the woman with the lightest skin by the “after” picture. Although Dove didn’t intend to imply white skin is cleaner, oops, that’s what happened anyways.

While Dove has gotten many things right in terms of inclusivity and featuring models of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, there have also been several instances of intentional racist missteps. Let’s use this as a teachable moment for handling marketing mishaps.

Whenever an ad campaign offends people, the company’s response can make or break the business. If you find yourself in the midst of a marketing crisis, you can take some mindful steps to manage the situation and begin repairing your public image.

First, acknowledge the problem and issue a genuine apology that gets to the core of what your audience is saying. Dove recognized they upset people, and instead of taking a defensive “sorry you felt offended” stance, took responsibility for their actions. Once an apology is issued, explain the original intent to provide context for the situation.

Dove meant to create an inclusive campaign featuring a diverse cast of women. Lola Ogunyemi, the first model featured in the now controversial shirt ad, has even defended the ad. She stated, “I can see how the snapshots that are circulating the web have been misinterpreted, considering the fact that Dove has faced a backlash in the past for the exact same issue. There is a lack of trust here, and I feel the public was justified in their initial outrage.”

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Business Marketing

Aori helps you pack a punch with AdWords

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Aori is the newest tool designed to help anyone using AdWords to kick more butt.

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google adwords aori

Search ad campaign managers constantly wrestle with the best way to organize their keywords into campaigns. Most of these decisions strive to balance the time needed to manage the campaign with efficiency of campaign expenditures.

Take the SKAGs strategy, for example. The SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Group) system is setup to trigger a unique ad for every single keyword by placing each keyword in its own group.

There’s lots of literature touting the benefits of the SKAG system. Generally, the hyper-specific match between ads and keywords improves click-through rates.

This leads to higher quality scores, which leads to lower costs for click, which leads to lower costs per conversion. The tradeoff with this system is the setup. You could be looking at hundreds of keyword groups to set up and maintain, and that’s a lot of work for a small business or startup.

This is where Aori comes in.

Their system helps to automate the process of setting up a SKAG system for your AdWords campaigns.

According to the website, the tool’s primary function is to automate keyword generation. Users enter a set of “root keywords” and common keyword extensions, and Aori will automatically generate all possible combinations of those keywords for your campaigns.

Additionally, through Aori, users can create ad templates using a “dynamic keyword insertion tool,” to enable you to utilize the strongest ad copy across multiple phrases.

In what is the least clear value point of the whole pitch, Aori also uses what they call a “unique bid-optimization algorithm.”

There is almost no detail to be found on how the algorithm works. If the tool handles all bid management for you, this could be a handy tool for PPC novices who are less familiar with the process and lack the time to learn it.

Aori appears to run cheaper than the others we know of, but that may be due to the level of automation available. For example, Aori requires the user to feed it keyword inputs, both root and extension words.

It’s also important to understand where a SKAG system can and can’t work. It is likely a better system for smaller campaigns where ad testing wouldn’t yield statistically meaningful results.

Because every keyword group targets one phrase, you can’t readily say that improvements in ad copy will translate to other campaigns.

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