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Millennials Don't Want Ads. They Want Stories. Avoid the sales-y pitch. Quality content marketing is at the heart of winning over the younger generation.

By Michael Brenner Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The old logic of marketing was that the more advertisements you throw at the younger generations, the earlier you can get them hooked on your brand. This approach might have made sense during the prime days of Madison Avenue, but it's quickly become stale and out-of-touch. Now, reaching out to the younger generation requires a different line of thought.

Many companies today want to connect with millennials because they seek to cultivate deep, personal, long-term relationships. That goal and the concept of how to reach it quickly and at scale makes today's marketers sweat. Everyone wants millennials' attention, loyalty -- and ultimately, their dollars. Earning those takes consistency and consideration. I found that content marketing is at the heart of both of those keys to success with this generation.

Related: How to Write Something That People Will Actually Read

Getting the right message in the right place at the right time is critical when trying to reach millennials. If your company is heavily targeting the group -- like Converse or Red Bull -- you already know that millennials are everywhere online today and they're accessing and interacting with your corporate brand from countless devices.

Marketers are smartly investing in content to reach millennials whenever and wherever they may be, via their preferred channel and with messaging that resonates. In a study conducted by NewsCred, my company -- which surveyed about 500 U.S. millennials -- found that 47 percent of them open company communications most, if not all, of the time. They're listening and receptive. And 62 percent of millennials surveyed agreed that the content they read and see online -- on websites, social media, in the news -- from a company makes them feel more connected and loyal to the brand.

Millennials are willing to engage, and they know that when they do, it's moving the needle on marketers' goals. Ensuring that your content marketing meets millennials with speed and scale at the moment it counts the most guarantees a long and healthy relationship. If you're not consistent, another company will be there that is, and it will eat away at your share of the millennial pie.

So, how do you know what the right message is for each millennial? With data and the media constantly barraging marketers with tales of millennials being finicky and uncommitted, it's easy to think that bothering to treat them as individuals -- rather than en masse -- will not deliver the return on investment you seek.

Related: Amending Your Marketing Strategy to More Effectively Reach a Changing America

That logic, however, just isn't true. The secret is utilizing the right tool to reach them. That tool is content marketing. NewsCred's survey discovered that millennials want to be spoken to like the unique people that they are. Sixty-four percent of the millennials studied said that they respond more positively to brand messages that are tailored to their cultural interests (music, movies, sports, entertainment), and 62 percent felt similarly about messages that are useful and help them solve their unique everyday problems.

Achieving content personalization at the scale that millennials consume content is daunting. How can you possibly scale to give everyone a unique brand experience. Yet, if you take the time to deliver content that users care about, it will get shared -- 50 percent of the time, survey respondents said they would share it on social media. It's worth it to invest the time in the content that will make a connection with millennials early and make it deep.

The survey found that millennials significantly prefer company brands that have a great product (77 percent, that they already know and trust (69 percent), and nearly a third said they're more likely to buy a product if the brand's content isn't sales-y and instead feels authentic and truthful.

This data underscores the importance of developing a relationship early with millennials so that they can grow to know and trust your brand, even before they may really need what you're selling. I think this is especially true for companies that see sales around a reason or life milestone (diapers, diamond rings, homeowners' insurance).

Authenticity comes from thoughtfulness and treating millennials the way they want to be perceived: unique, decisive, and authentic. Remember to be sure you're cultivating an authentic relationship, rather than one based on the constant state of selling. You'll reap the rewards if you do.

Michael Brenner

Head of Strategy for NewsCred

Michael Brenner is the head of strategy for NewsCred, a content marketing startup based in New York City. Previously he was the vice president of marketing at SAP.

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