The Millennial Generation, or "Millennials," is the largest, most connected, and most globally-aware generation in the United States. At nearly 80 million strong, these consumers are between the ages of 18-32, and brands and organizations across the board are struggling to reach this elusive, but highly desirable demographic.
Millennials are notoriously media and marketing savvy, and scoff at traditional campaigns that are incapable of reaching them using modern communication technology they enjoy. Engaging this hard to pin down audience requires a smarter approach to communication. But it is not just about adapting to evolving mediums, though brands and organizations must be relevant in their communication and understand the art of transmedia storytelling, instead it is more about reaching out to Millennials about their values.
To be successful in reaching Millennials, businesses need to give themselves the freedom to re-think their entire marketing strategy. To achieve their business objectives businesses need to communicate effectively with the values of consumers. Brands that are becoming more socially conscious today will positively affect their bottom-line, their communities, and the world of tomorrow.
In a telephone interview with David Burstein, author of "Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World," he said Millennials are highly connected to and are extremely conscious of their values. They "see the world from a values perspective," he continued, "Reaching Millennials requires a real investment [from brands and organizations] in social responsibility."
One way for marketers to credibly build their brand is through authentic partnerships with cause-focused organizations. Causes like Charity:Water, TOMS Shoes, and FEED Projects have become near celebrities in and of them selves, and causes that brands should embrace. Doing so is better for our world and will impact the bottom-line by reaching values-driven Millennials.
Take for example the recent collaboration between Target and FEED Projects which Advertising Age reports, "...marks the first time Target has treated a cause-related campaign like one of its designer collaborations, with TV and print ads, as well as a digital campaign and broad-based support in store." Burstein said that the Target + FEED campaign was a win-win-win-win for reaching Millennials.
"It's a win for the company, a win for their consumers, a win for the problems they're trying to solve, and a win for employees who share the same values," he said.
Watching the Target + FEED campaign TV ad on YouTube shows the story of how purchasing products, like a shirt or blanket, will FEED people in need. This makes the consumer feel good, which should translate to more sales at the register, even if they have to pay a premium for the products. I am now the proud owner of a new FEED hoodie sweatshirt purchased at Target and doubtless I'm not alone. In fact, a study released in 2011 on American Millennials, says "Millennials care about causes and are more likely to show a preference toward companies that support causes even if it means paying a bit more for those companies' products."
Millennials want to participate in any way they can, including consciously using their purchasing power, to help express their ideals. "Millennials care about social issues and tend to support companies that are actively helping address problems across the globe," Advertising Age reports.
A leading example of a brand authentically partnering and utilizing its resources to address a global cause is Intel. The corporation and its employees have been working hand-in-hand with activists, documentarians, and journalists as part of the 10x10 campaign to educate girls and women throughout the world. Transmedia storytelling has included supporting a feature film, Girl Rising; a Facebook game, Half the Sky Movement: The Game; and is now working with community leaders throughout the world to develop a policy framework to address the issue.
In a press release on Intel's corporate responsibility efforts which includes this initiative, Michael Jacobson, director of corporate responsibility at Intel said, "Embedding corporate responsibility into our vision, strategy and management systems creates value for us, as well as our stockholders, customers and our global communities."
While the Internet has empowered Millennials to change the world, brands and organizations can work with causes to address the problems of our communities while seeking participation from its consumers. Doing so will resonate with the conscious ideals and entrepreneurship of Millennials. Industry leaders should join hands with local organizations to help clean up community beaches and parks, or sponsor hackathons to develop technology solutions to community challenges, or work with local governments and artists to fund and build publicly displayed art. Doing so provides an opportunity for Millennials to participate within the framework of existing infrastructure to transform their community.
We are staring at the tip of the iceberg of brands transforming their marketing approach to align with their socially responsible values. But one thing is clear. Great stories are more valuable to a brand than ever before; and storytelling is an organizations greatest secret weapon in its quest to differentiate itself from its competition. And a story of doing good in the world, if told well to those who need to hear it, is timeless.
David All is the Founder and CEO of MADE I/O which works with entrepreneurs, brands, and organizations to help them effectively communicate the good they are doing in the world and our communities.