Millennials. Maybe you are one, maybe you created one, maybe you cross the street when you see one coming–because you’re sure you could sell them a puppy. But there’s something funny about the safe-space generation that you might not realize: many traditional advertisements don’t work on them. Millennials have some kind of strange immunity to advertising ploys that would have the rest of us dumping money down the incinerator if we caught wind of them.
Honestly, what’s wrong with these people?
Well, there’s a lot of hand-wringing, workshops, and artificial intelligence constructs trying to work out a solution to the Millennial problem. They all ask the question, ‘How can we get these kids to pay attention to our ads?!?’
What they’re missing is the fact that the entire ecosystem of sales and entertainment has transformed. While the rest of us are adapting to it, the Millennials have been born into it. This means you have to take a whole new approach to get to them.
Pounding Electric Leather
When I was a young buck we sold everything door to door. My team didn’t sell security systems, we sold interest in security systems. Yeah, I still don’t know how that was supposed to work, but we did it. Today, actual security systems and religion are about the only things people will try to sell to you from your front stoop. Everything else is a scam.
The traditional concept of an advertising pitch is that it is something that is delivered to you. Even if you’re just watching TV–the commercials are “brought to you” during a specific space of time designed for the purpose of selling you things. The commercial comes to you, is presented to you. It is connected to the media you’re interested in only parenthetically. It is inserted–it never really belonged. We never accepted ads, therefore we find them jarring. That is to say, we cannot ignore them. We’re not cool enough.
When the standard online advertising model took hold, those of us born before 1982 had to accept it. We slowly realized that ads could mean that we can consume content for free. It’s something that’s never come naturally to us. The ads still stand out. We see them as an imposition.
People who cut their teeth on the Internet see ads differently. What stands out to the rest of us like dust in our eye, to a Millennial, are just background radiation. They do not see ads as something they must respond to. They see ads as the nail that holds up their favorite portrait. They feel no need to respond to ads–they are glad ads are there.
The door to door salesman doesn’t even need to knock. He’s already home, stealin’ yer bergerz.
If You Build it, They Will Stay Home
The digital revolution has turned advertising on its head–and the people who grew up in it are the proof in the pudding.
What needs to change is the direction from which you approach these strange animals, not the way you approach them. The trick is to create a community around your brand. This isn’t just about posting things on social media.
I swear to you, if I hear one more speech about the importance of advertising through social media I will eat my own hands. This is not what we’re on about.
No, the point is not to shove your brand into the narrow confines of some Facebook censorship algorithm. It isn’t about making a big bleeding impression on this platform or that. It’s about making your brand into a social space all its own. No, we’re not telling you to build the next big social media titan and then hustle your widgets on it. We’re telling you to make space around your brand to gather a community all your own.
“Good Afternoon, Can I Interest You a Group of People Who Share Your Interests?”
You can, and there are a number of ways you can make your brand into a beacon that attracts a whole community of chatty Cathys. There are lots of ways to do this. Here are three.
1. Set up a community forum. If there’s a learning curve to using or enjoying your products, then there will be people with questions and people with answers about them. Often, the only barrier to your customers going further down the sales funnel is some missing piece of information. They want to know that the purchase they are considering will work in the way that they hope it will. If they can find a way to get the thing they’re looking for and tweak it in some way you have yet to imagine, they are many times more likely to buy it.
2. Blog it from their perspective. Center your blog posts around the premise of how your product or service will work in the lives of your customers. Make them see it through their own eyes, solving problems and meeting needs that are real and present. Also, give them space to comment–that’s something Millennials have come to expect.
3. Tweet, link, hashtag, and create a Facebook page. Create connections to other relevant content. Use these links as ways to grab them and reel them back in when they start to drift back over to Buzzfeed. Be on all the big social media sites. Offer free advice, special deals, and set up events. Millennials want to be a part of something. Don’t make them have to get off the couch to do it.
Remember, the new digital advertising model is about bringing a home to them–rather than invading theirs.
DL M has 21 years of professional writing for print and online media and has 10+ years experience as a freelance fiction editor. He’s a content creator for major corporations covering all topics for a wide range of industries, specializing in white papers, research, news content. His specialty subjects include: current events, marketing, analytics, personal development, leveraging social media, SEO, business development, cloud computing, language, and politics.