Above All Else, Be Authentic

Millennials have been marketed to for as long as they can remember. They know they are a desired demographic. They accept marketing and advertising as a necessary part of commerce. 

In short, they get it.  

But, with this understanding come rising expectations. Generation Y expects more out of marketers. They expect you to not just understand them, but to be relevant. And above all else, they expect you to be authentic. 

The Need for Authenticity

Gen Y’s desire for authenticity has been fueled from birth by their Baby Boomer parents. They were encouraged to do anything they wanted, to be anyone they wanted. Their parents told them they were special and that distinction wasn’t exclusive to themselves, but everyone individually. They believed it. As such, they thrived in team environments where everyone could contribute to the greater good. 

As they developed this general sense of acceptance in their youth, “Being You” became a central hallmark for Millennials. Individual style, opinions and decisions were accepted and encouraged. Avoiding the cookie-cutter wasn’t a rebellious notion (as it was for Gen X and Boomers in their youth), but rather something to celebrate. It signified someone (or something) being true to who they are.  



Being an Authentic Brand

There are two ways Generation Y evaluates authenticity in brands—in messaging about yourself and messaging to them. 

To be authentic about yourself, remain true to what your brand represents. For example if you’re a luxury brand, own it. Don’t try to appeal to the masses by talking about price point. Talk about your value. Be forthright about your goals and intentions, don’t try to mask them. Toms shoes got this balance just right. When they explain the principle of donating a pair of shoes for every shoe purchased, they don’t hide behind it. Everyone knows they are a for-profit company, but one committed to also doing some good.

To be authentic in your messaging to them, demonstrate an understanding of their world. Understanding the role of diversity in their lives is a key way to do that.  

In just about any way you look at it, Generation Y’s world is diverse. They are the most ethnically-diverse adult generation—58% Caucasian, compared to 62% of Xers and 72% of Baby Boomers. Consequently, their social circle is more diverse. Millennials are more likely to have friends of a different ethnicity, different sexual orientation, different political affiliation and different religion. As such, Millennials are more likely than older generations to say it’s important so see this diversity reflected in the media they consume and the advertisements targeting them. 

Catering to these mounting expectations can be a daunting task for marketers, but luckily the very thing that can make Millennials so difficult to engage is the very thing that makes them an ideal target. 

Just be you. 

They’ll like you better for it.

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