Business leaders who have come of age in the context of a connected social world have a drastically evolved perspective on everything from news and education to sports, relationships and advertising. There is a new expectation and social contract with advertisers, which favors conversation over broadcast messaging, requiring authenticity, nuanced voice and frequent creative refresh. There is a new set of rules for how businesses engage with consumers. They now sell through the digital content they create and the voice they use.
Only some marketers have adapted and joined this conversation. Millennials seem to have the tightest grasp on which marketing tactics meet these new expectations and are successful with today's consumers, mainly because they are today’s consumers.
Below are three core-marketing aphorisms millennials follow with great success.
1. Failing fast as a worldview
It seems obvious that business leaders would prefer to insure that the hypothesis, strategy and tactics they employ to achieve business objectives are correct. Why then, don’t all businesses test their marketing creative rigorously? A recent report found that 53 percent of baby boomers at small and medium businesses don’t test their digital ad creative at all.
Millennials don’t just believe in failing fast; they intrinsically see fast failure as a core tenet to operating a successful business. In a way, millennial business leaders have adopted agile product development principles into all aspects of business, from project management to marketing. They learn through doing instead of planning. They jump in and try a set of defined hypothesis, test, analyze and adjust. Millennials are not afraid to try something that might not work, which ultimately helps them succeed faster.
Legacy corporations traditionally have long creative cycles, excessively rigid brand compliance and complex approval processes, making rich media and digital content variation time consuming and costly to create. A lot of marketers still believe this is true, but millennials never thought this way to begin with. Through their eyes, making digital content (and lots of it) is just something that’s done.
With today’s technology, creating variation is simple, quick and cost-effective. Creative optimization has very little financial or brand risk and tremendous rewards. So why put out one perfectly produced, corporately approved, on-brand advertisement when 100 unproven, imperfect, brand-compliant videos take the same amount of time to create and would generate much greater ROI?
2. Social norms that inform marketing
Millennials expect immediate gratification and constant availability. If something is not readily available, they like to know how far it is, when it will get to them and where it is located every step of the way. While tracking packages from Amazon, millennials are simultaneously holding 17 conversations via text, live-tweeting Game of Thrones, checking Facebook and pitching a startup. Having grown accustomed to their attention being pulled in a thousand directions at once, millennials are skilled in simultaneously holding numerous conversations and they bring these skills into the way they do business.
With social media as their main platform, millennials constantly communicate with their customers, driving engagement and consequently, increasing brand awareness. This allows millennials to integrate the customer journey from brand awareness to purchase to customer retention.
The world has condemned millennials for always having their heads in their apps, yet they take this to the business world and they’re miles ahead. What has been frowned upon by baby boomers has given millennials the strongest customer communication skills since the pre-digital era. Although they may not communicate face-to-face, they’re constantly communicating through multiple digital platforms and with multiple mediums.
They use video because it spreads organically, increases brand awareness and fosters engagement. Something as simple as a puppy, if put in the right context, can take a brand out of the white noise and into the spotlight. Millennials create digital content as much as they consume it. Instead of posting content and waiting for reactions, they are driving interaction by responding to the content of others, creating a digital conversation around their brand. This not only increases engagement, but creates a brand persona, develops a familiar voice and trust at the same time.
Related: 5 Ways Millennials Can Reach Gen Z
3. Back to the future with personal engagement
Millennials intrinsically understand the notion that people buy from people (especially people they like). They use social media platforms to put faces to their businesses, create/share brand stories and foster emotional engagement and conversation. They earn trust through transparency, which ultimately drives higher value customers and sales.
Millennial business professionals not only have a native handle on what to say to consumers, but also how to say it. Real time customer success stories, ad hoc produced video, live-streaming and live chat all increase personal touch and authenticity without unwieldy timelines and massive creative budgets. Rather than adding to saturated digital clutter, millennials move past the hum of advertisements using digital door-to-door tactics of personal engagement.
It’s time for all marketers to pick up the context of the connected social world. Broadcast messaging in this age is similar to billboard advertising -- it might catch the eye of a few, but almost everyone is walking with their heads down, focused on their devices. Traditional ads are static. Consumers crave conversation and authenticity. Millennials have the evolved perspectives that can teach us all. Steal the tactics that are working for the consumers, from the consumers.