Commentary

7 Things Marketers Should Know About Engaging Millennials At Events

Complain about millennials all you want, but we’re not all evil. In the U.S., we’re now 80 million strong. We’ve changed the way people communicate and gather, and pioneered the idea of online personas. We’d rather spend our time (and our money) on experiences, not things.

Brands like Spotify, Budweiser and Red Bull are spending millions on events as a way to engage the ever-elusive millennial. But are these brands really tapping into what young consumers want and expect from their events? Last December, we surveyed 785 millennials to find out. Here’s what we learned:

1. Focus on memory creation.

Millennials want to share adventures and experiences—not just stuff. Brands who create unforgettable experiences at live events will win the hearts and minds (and Instagram feeds) of millennials. Your event should leave an impression and encourage storytelling. 

2. Don’t try to invent something new.

The best brands are the facilitators of cool, not the creators. To be an effective experiential marketer, you have to get out of the way—especially of your own ego. You’ve heard the phrase “meet them where they are,” and this couldn’t ring more true for millennials. 

The smartest brands are partnering with influencers and artists who already have cultivated their own organic followers and fans. Philosophy’s “Breathing Changes Everything” campaign is a great example. Through outdoor and other wellbeing events, the brand elevates their message through millennial influencers like Northwest Instagrammer Laura Lawson Visconti and Instagram-famous yogi, Rachel Brathen (a.k.a. @yoga_girl). 

Millennials care a great deal about authenticity. By collaborating and aligning with taste-making brands and celebrities, you can showcase your product or service with more legitimacy.

3. Focus on the photo ops.

Let’s be honest: Selfies are important. It’s how millennials communicate with their friends, endorse places and products, and document their lives. Your event should fully embrace opportunities for photo-taking and memory-making. Hot tip: Consider creating a custom geo-filter for your event on Snapchat. Brands like Spotify, Samsung and Hilton all got in on the Snapchat filter game at SXSW Interactive, which helped to spread their activations & events far beyond Austin’s city limits.

Plan your photography strategy ahead of time. And if you’re going to have multiple photo or gif booths available, communicate exactly how, where and when you’re going to deliver the goods to your attendees. After all, getting event photos into the hands of your attendees is a crucial step in extending the lifecycle of an event long after it’s over.

4. Cater to indecisiveness.

Close to 30% of survey respondents reported that they only RVSP to an event the day of, which means that brands must be more patient and persistent than ever. 

Brands have to be okay with the fact that not everyone will respond to an event invite right away. With this kind of flaky behavior as the norm, it’s also crucial to implement a solid reminder email sequence to reminder the stragglers in the days and weeks leading up to the event.

5. Reward their loyalty.

Millennials consider attending a branded event an act of allegiance, and because of that, it’s an excellent opportunity to build on that relationship. Very few brands apply loyalty programs or behavioral targeting principles to the event marketing space, which is a huge missed opportunity. 

In our study, 92% of respondents said they’d be open to a personalized email offer after an event and 64% said that while they don’t expect a brand to reward them for attending an event, they’re certainly open to it. 

Think thank-you emails with coupons or discounts, or gifts or all-expense paid trips for the top all-time event goers. That’s some powerful one-to-one marketing.

6. Expand your event ecosystem.

Know that the event doesn’t begin and end at the door (or the dance floor). Brands that engage millennials at every touch-point in the event lifecycle—from a beautiful event website to the day-after emails—are already way ahead of the game. Think about digital content that can live on past the event, whether it’s playlists of DJ mixes or 360-degree GIFs that they can share on social.

7. Hire some millennials.

Quick, take a scan of your event and marketing team. Are they between the ages of 20 and 35? Are they plugged into social media, music, and entertainment trends? If not, you might want to find some. Yes, you might end up in one of their Snapchats, but we don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Here’s to cooler, more meaningful and memorable branded events.

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