Marketing Bootcamp

3 Millennial Marketing Lessons From the Selfie

As a member of Generation X, I find selfies to be, well, almost comical. It’s photography taken by oneself, featuring oneself, doing nothing other than being oneself.

Some have started calling millennials “the selfie generation.” But what does the selfie really tell us marketers about the millennial generation?

A lot, I think. With every picture, millennials express themselves and reveal how they prefer to receive information. For marketers, knowing how millennials communicate is key to reaching them and to helping them express themselves through our brands.

Here’s how the selfie gives us insight into the millennial psyche:

1. Selfish selfies

Sometimes it seems like every single situation, no matter how mundane, is “selfie-worthy” to some millennials. New shirt? Selfie! Arrived at the office on time? Selfie! Just feeling good today? Selfie!

Why the “selfish” selfies? This generation is beyond digital native. They are on the cusp of being mobile natives. They barely remember a world that wasn’t connected via mobile devices.

Every aspect of their lives is based on connectivity. So why wouldn’t the ability to share every moment of their lives on demand be the norm? It’s how they learn about new restaurants and products, how they complain to their friends about their latest failed relationship, and even how they meet their future (possibly failed) relationship partner.

LESSON LEARNED: Connectedness is an integrated aspect of millennials’ lives. Mobile can’t be an afterthought. It has to be the first thought.

2. Self-expression selfies

Millennials aren’t just sharing their everyday stories on social media. They’re using all kinds of tools to enhance their stories.

The tool might be a quirky photo filter. Perhaps it's a unique selfie pose they’re introducing. They might even resort to hashtagging their selfies.

Millennials are driven to be unique when they express themselves. Their social media photos are as much an expression of themselves as the clothing they wear, the music they listen to, and the people with which they hang out.

LESSON LEARNED: If you want to resonate with millennials, give them ample opportunity to express themselves. Make sure customer service listens to their unique expressions, and give them opportunities to customize your products.

3. Situational selfies

Did you see this guy? He took a selfie from the top of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. It’s one of many “risk-taking” selfies that kids are doing these days.

Millennials’ lives are often rooted in visual context. They’ve grown up in a world with easy access to photography (Instagram) and video (YouTube). They even graduate high school with the ability to create digital slideshows, build websites, and edit videos. They know what impact visual can have. And they rely on it in the stories they share.

LESSON LEARNED: "Let’s get visual / Visual / I wanna get visual…" (#ThrowbackThursday). You don’t have to rely on copy to tell your story. Visual context can’t be overstated with Millennials. They get it. Powerful image or video will go much farther than a block of copy.

Millennials’ wants and needs aren’t so different from anyone else’s. They’re just children of a different era of technology and connectedness. So they’re communicating with each other, and the brands they love, differently. And perhaps "Selfie-shly."


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