Bolster Content Marketing to Reach Millennials

Stephen DeAngelis

July 20, 2016

Millennials like to be informed. That’s one reason that content marketing is a great way to reach them. The age spread represented by millennials (from teens to 30-somethings) represents a challenge for marketers because content considered relevant changes based on all sorts of factors (such as age, ethnicity, geography, gender, and so forth). As a group, however, millennials represent an important consumer segment. Jennifer Lonoff Schiff (@JenniferLSchiff), head of Schiff & Schiff Communications, reports, “More than 80 million millennials, people born between the early 1980s and 2000, currently live in the United States alone. And according to Accenture, these 30-somethings, 20-somethings and teens are spending some $600 billion annually.”[1] Manufacturers and retailers are anxious to grab a share of that money. As noted above, however, reaching millennials can be tricky. Kane McCord, Chief Operating Officer of Ibotta, notes, “Millennials, also known as Generation Y, hold an immense amount of purchasing power, so it is now more critical than ever that retailers understand their shopping and saving habits.”[2] Last fall the Corn Refiners Association noted, “Marketing to millennials means navigating apparent paradoxes.”[3] It goes on to explain:

“Millennials are now the largest and most powerful group of consumers, but their preferences and purchase drivers are more complex than those of previous generations. To win millennials’ business and capitalize on their rising purchase power, marketers must learn to interpret a wealth of confounding data and navigate four major apparent paradoxes.”

The apparent paradoxes to which the Corn Refiners Association refer all relate to food purchases and probably have a lot to do with the age spread involved. According to the Association, the first paradox is that “some millennials appear to be health-conscious, while others have a carefree attitude.” Frankly, that’s really not much of a paradox. That could be said about every generation. Kristen Cloud (@KCloudShelby) reports that marital and parental status plays a large role when purchasing food.[4] “Nutrition trumps convenience and price,” she writes, “gluten-free food surprisingly doesn’t matter as much to Millennial moms. Nine out of 10 Millennial moms prepare healthy lunch boxes for their children. Of this group of mothers, they prioritize nutrition (88 percent) as their main concern, when shopping for food to include in lunch boxes, above the more obvious price and convenience.” What that means for marketers in the food industry is that content marketing to married millennials should focus health and nutrition information. The second paradox identified by the Corn Refiners Association is that “millennials are apparently motivated by both nostalgia and a desire to embrace new experiences.” Although they concentrate on food habits, I suspect this paradox is true in many areas. The third paradox, according to the Association, is that even “though millennials have tighter budgets than older generations, they say they’re willing to pay more for products they value.” In other words, content marketing needs to address the values millennials embrace if companies want millennials to pay attention. The final paradox identified by the Association was that “millennials shop for food more frequently than older generations, but they also love to stock up on food sold in bulk quantities.”

 

The reason I discuss the paradoxes identified by the Corn Refiners Association is to highlight how challenging it can be to target members of Generation Y. There is no single approach nor common storyline that can be used across this multi-faceted generation. Nevertheless, Jayson DeMers (@jaysondemers), Founder and CEO of AudienceBloom (and a millennial), writes, “Millennials do share some traits in common, and if you’re trying to reach them through content marketing, you need to adopt the right strategies to do it successfully.”[5] He suggests seven things you should keep in mind when designing your content marketing strategy:

1. Do not sell. A whopping 84 percent of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising. … Use content marketing the way it was supposed to be used — to inform, entertain, or otherwise provide value to your readership, with conversions as a secondary consideration.

2. Get on social media. It’s no secret that millennials are one of the most engaged, involved segments of society on social media. They represent the largest audience segments on most platforms, especially new players like Instagram and Snapchat, and tend to prefer interacting on these channels than any other outlet. As such, they should be a main priority for the production, distribution, and syndication of your content. …

3. Keep everything mobile friendly. Not all millennials are addicted to their phones, but millennials are the most mobile generation. They use mobile devices far more than desktop, and rely on online content when they’re on the go, or facing some immediate problem to which they need a solution (more on this in a moment). …

4. Offer fast solutions. Are millennials impatient? Do they tend to favor instant gratification, or do they make more impulsive decisions? The jury is still out on these qualities, but one thing’s for sure; millennials have ubiquitous access to technology, and they know how to find information. And because they’re often on mobile devices, looking for answers to immediately pressing problems, they want their content quickly. If you want to be their go-to brand, serving their content needs and earning their loyalty, you need to present them with fast, thorough information and solutions.

5. Showcase your values. Thanks in part to their natural distrust in corporations, millennials tend to strongly prefer brands with some demonstration of corporate social responsibility. What does that mean? It means millennials will be more likely to buy from you and continue engaging with you if you have some verifiable claim to giving back to the community, or investing in an important issue, such as donating to a specific cause, volunteering with your employees on the weekends, or simply ‘going green’ to protect the environment. Work these themes into your content occasionally to build trust, and show millennials that you practice what you preach.

6. Demonstrate social proof. Social proof is a phenomenon bigger than the millennial generation, but it’s still an important one to incorporate. The vast majority of millennials trust their friends, family members, and even most strangers over what a corporation or brand would tell them. In your content strategy, you need to use this to your advantage. Leverage the power of personal brands when you can, and offer guest spots to ‘average Joes,’ or other authorities in your industry. If you want to go even further, you can institute some kind of user-submitted content element in your campaign. The more consumers and users millennials see engaging with your brand, the better they’ll think of you.

7. Narrow your engagement. It’s also a good idea to avoid targeting the “millennial” audience as a general niche. The strategies I’ve listed so far can help you become more appealing to millennials, but if you adopt a strategy that’s too general, your readers may believe you’re only trying to sell to them, or that you don’t understand them, or even worse — they’ll never find your content at all. Instead, narrow your engagement by targeting highly specific niche audiences, and interacting with your users on an individual level whenever possible.

The only way you will successfully segment your campaign (i.e., target highly specific niche audiences) is to analyze available data. Provided with the right data, advanced analytics can provide very refined insights that can help you develop the right content for the audience. One thing most pundits seem to agree on is that having a mobile campaign strategy is essential. It sounds counter-intuitive to run an advertising campaign whose primary purpose is to inform rather than sell, but this is a new era of advertising which is targeting a new generation of consumers.

 

Footnotes
[1] Jennifer Lonoff Schiff, “8 Tips for Marketing to Millennials Online,” IT News, 16 May 2016.
[2] Kane McCord, “4 tips to build Gen Y loyalty with mobile rebates,” Mobile Commerce Daily, 9 May 2016.
[3] Corn Refiners Association, “Bridging the Generation Gap,” LinkedIn, 27 October 2015.
[4] Kristen Cloud, “Millennial Moms Choose Nutrition Over Price, Convenience For Kids’ Lunch Boxes,” The Shelby Report, 21 August 2015.
[5] Jayson DeMers, “7 Ways To Target Millennials Through Content Marketing,” Forbes, 27 June 2016.