Five Ways to Market to Millennials Online

They’re educated, career-driven, tech-savvy, and they represent some $200 billion in buying power every year. Millennials have arrived, and they require a whole new approach to marketing. According to a recent study released by millennial news and entertainment site Elite Daily, just 1 percent of millennial consumers are prepared to trust a brand after viewing an ad. How, then, can companies connect with this elusive audience? Here are five tactics to get you started.


1. Create a brand experience that feels real.

Elite Daily’s data shows that 43 percent of millennials rank authenticity above content when it comes to consuming news and information. If a brand experience comes off as contrived or a millennial consumer feels duped, she isn’t likely to engage.

Brands, therefore, are striving to create ultra-realistic marketing campaigns. To promote the recently released supernatural thriller “Unfriended,” about a haunting that plays out over social media, Universal Pictures took a page from the Blair Witch book of marketing to build a movie myth online. The company created a Facebook page for the character believed to be exacting revenge on her peers, along with a Facebook community page. In the weeks leading up the film’s release date the initial Facebook page was repeatedly “hacked” in keeping with the movie’s plot.


2. Do the unexpected.

According to The Washington Post, a companion video for “Unfriended” was posted to Facebook, YouTube, and LiveLeak. Presented as found footage, the clip was so realistic that it was later removed from YouTube for violating the site’s content policy. Universal Pictures remained quiet about the campaign, but its clandestine efforts were a success. In its first three days in the theaters, the low-budget movie generated close to $16 million in ticket sales.

But even though millennials crave authenticity, brands are finding they can lure them with marketing mysteries – if they offer big rewards. In 2013, singer Beyoncé released a surprise album on iTunes and created a “ripple effect” across social media platforms. Doritos, meanwhile, introduced mystery chip flavors and invited consumers to vote for their favorite online.

Social messaging app Snapchat is being used for a similar purpose. A perennial millennial favorite, it allows brands to deliver content that has limited availability and a short shelf life. Snapchat users never know when a new “ad” is coming, and that helps to create interest and anticipation.


3. Get interactive.

This past Valentine’s Day, Taco Bell ran a Snapchat campaign that allowed consumers to send Valentine’s cards featuring themes related to the brand’s ingredients. Users were able to personalize the cards in much the same way that they would add a caption to a Snapchat photo.


Interactivity is essential to millennial marketing, particularly on social media, where Elite Daily found that 62 percent of millennials are willing to engage with brands. By creating interactive content like quizzes and games – such as that created by T-Mobile in partnership with BuzzFeed – or asking for feedback and inviting consumers to help shape a brand message, companies stand a chance of gaining their allegiance. Given that 60 percent of millennials are “often or always loyal to brands that they currently purchase”, making campaigns interactive should be high on a marketer’s to-do list.


4. Revisit Facebook.

Marketers should also stay abreast of millennial social media trends. For some time now the belief has been that younger Americans are abandoning Facebook in favor of hipper social sites. In fact, Facebook remains a powerful tool for engaging with these consumers. The American Press Institute reported in March that 88 percent of millennials still visit Facebook for news, with 57 percent doing so daily. YouTube draws 83 percent, while 50 percent turn to Instagram. Pinterest, Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr are all part of the content mix, but 60 percent of millennial Facebook users regularly “like” news stories posted to the site, and 42 percent share news content.

Given this month’s launch of Facebook’s “fast, interactive” Instant Articles, Facebook is poised to tighten its hold on content-hungry millennial users. Instant Articles are designed to grab consumers’ attention and load quickly on mobile, and we can expect them to spark the interest of young consumers who are already growing accustomed to accessing quality publisher content through platforms like Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube.


5. Think mobile-first.

Elite Daily’s findings confirm what we know to be true about millennial behavior: 87 percent of millennials use two to three devices at least once a day. Nearly 40 percent plan to buy a tablet within the next five years, while 30 percent are interested in wearables. A separate study by eMarketer on this consumer segment saw 55 percent of millennials rank mobile-friendly sites and apps as the best way for brands to engage them online.

Brand matters but so does creating a digital experience that delivers on mobile media. With millennials, you may only get one chance to make a lasting impression.

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