Google “Millennial” and it’s easy to see why every marketer is freaking out trying to reach this often misunderstood generation. Data is readily available that tells them these consumers are online all the time across various devices and that they don’t mind brand messages in the mix as they engage with content everywhere. Data is also available that shows marketers how much this generation is spending or will spend over their lifetime with brands they love. Naturally, brand marketers want in.
Many of the studies confirm the same generational diagnosis: Millennials are overeducated, underemployed, iPhone-loving texters. I’m just at the top of the Millennial parameters (18-34 year olds or so) but I employ a hundred of them and have the opposite view: They’re incredibly unique with strong personal beliefs, preferences, and pride in their work. They are wolves, not sheep. Simply knowing where they’re consuming content online, or just buying into the data that they love brands their friends or celebrities endorse is thinking too short term to make an impact on your bottom line.
We wanted to dig deeper into the nuances of what Millennials truly like and dislike when it comes to content and so we went into surveying 500 Millennials wondering if the existing data on “the herd” was going to prove true. Some of our findings may surprise you!
Celebrity Endorsements Are Not The End-All, Be-All
Despite popular beliefs about influencers, our research found that only 24% of Millennials respond more positively to content that references someone they respect (defined as celebrities, politicians, authors, etc.). If you’ve got a bottomless marketing budget, it certainly can’t hurt. But if paying for one celebrity endorsement represents your entire budget for 2015, I encourage you to think again. We also looked at this response by gender and found women slightly less enthused (47%, versus males, 53%).
Dumbing It Down Is Not The Only Way
Common belief is that every Millennial loves pictures of baby animals and lists like, “10 Things Only ‘Mass-holes’ or ‘Introverts’ Will Get.” Our survey data corroborated that humor is important to Millennials, in fact 70% said an article being funny is a reason to share. Yet our data showed content that’s intelligent and thought-provoking (62%) was the second driver of sharing. It doesn’t have to be strictly about current events (35%), or only related to a cause they believe in (49%) — it’s far more valuable for it to be smart. This speaks volumes about the importance of a true content marketing strategy — one that blends tone from funny to wise, and content type from licensed to original.
It’s More About What The Brand Says Than What Their Friends Say
A lot of brand marketers pontificate that social content “virality” is the key to content marketing success. Our survey data didn’t support this, a strategy that performs consistently over time versus seeing one huge (and often un-replicable) success is key. When asked how they feel about communications from leading brands, only 30% of Millennials said they like articles that are recommended by friends. When asked if they prefer brands their friends use, even fewer (26%) answered affirmatively. Backing that up, only 12% actively stated their dislike of brand communications via email, corporate blogs, etc. The door seems open for direct relationships with Millennials.
At first, we looked at the raw data and asked each other — are they messing with us?
Yet, many of the other “baseline” Millennial suppositions were proven out. They like helpful and useful content (60%), they won’t read something that’s “too long” (42%), and they’re less likely to convert if content is too sales-y (68%). All of those generalizations we’d heard before. They’re not messing with us - they’re finally living up to the kind of Millennials I get to meet and work with everyday. Instead of lowering our content to meet them, we need to make content worthy of their aspirations, intellect, and sense of humor. After all, Millennials will soon be running the world. Don’t you want them to keep your brand in mind?