Marketers have learned that embracing user-generated social content enhances their brands and builds stronger relationships with customers. But yet they still fear what their customers, especially social-savvy, trendsetting millennials, may say online about them. They worry that some of the 2 billion young people worldwide — projected to spend over $2.5 trillion annually in the coming years — could make disparaging remarks on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, tarnish their brand images and cause alienation with this important demographic.
But what if brands stop fearing millennials and instead started partnering with them to co-create more authentic brand narratives? What if they went from reactive to proactive on social media? Understanding what they love and hate about your products, and how to craft a brand image that fits into young consumers’ own carefully-constructed personal brand narratives is imperative.
Co-Create Your Brand with Millennial Content Creators
By definition, millennials are natural content creators and storytellers. They thoughtfully develop narratives about their lives on social media. They take, stylize and curate photos; write and share posts, articles and videos; and use this content to create a visual storyline about their lives. Advertisers who study how their millennial customers brand themselves online have a blueprint for how to reach and engage this audience. They can analyze content millennials post to create marketing messages that resonates with this audience. They can even showcase the user-generated content on their websites and in marketing materials.
One brand that understood this right from the start is Rent the Runway. By encouraging fashionistas who rent their clothes to “wear it, gram it, tag it,” Rent the Runway literally built its brand on the back of millions of customer stories and photos. Other companies trying hard to appeal to a younger audience, such as Carnival Cruises, Nike, Burberry, Mercedes-Benz and Kimpton Hotels, are also actively incorporating millennial UGC into their campaigns.
For marketers and their agency partners used to spending millions to create brand campaigns by hiring prestigious creative staff and turning to designers and market researchers to dream up content, co-creating brand content with anyone but these top talent seems counterintuitive. Traditional marketing content creation models, both custom creative and stock, aren’t just incredibly expensive — they’re also often tone deaf to millennial values: a group that turns to social networks for product recommendations, with research showing they’re almost immune to traditional advertising.
Millennials are Brand Partners, Not Threats
Yet, embracing millennial-created content as a means to learn how to tell your brand story isn’t a threat to traditional creative marketing teams; it’s an opportunity.
Today, no agency or internal marketing team can keep up with the constant content creation required to keep a brand top of mind on social media. By monitoring and incorporating UGC into their campaigns, brands can offload some content creation onto their customers, spending more time on strategy. It’s like crowdsourced marketing.
Here are three tips to get started with content co-creation.
1. Get your story straight: When it comes to creating a unique brand story, make sure to tell the “why” (your vision) behind the “what” (your product). Customers love a good human nature story - why you started the company, what the product mean to you personally, and how people around the world use it to connect with family and friends.
2. Create Instagrammable moments: In today’s social age, you need to tell your brand story in “sound bites.” Make your brand vision tweetable and instagrammable and think in terms of creating shareable “moments” instead of broad messages. For an apparel company, this can mean creating cooler packaging or offering a small gift to people who post photos of themselves in your clothes.
3. Exceed customer expectations. This should go without saying, but any brand that wants to attract millennials should offer an amazing, one-of-a-kind experience. Young consumers have millions of product choices and they gravitate toward brands that fit with their lifestyle image of themselves. Make sure your brand reflects the stories millennials tell about themselves - global, innovative, stylish, hip, creative, environmentally conscious and socially aware, to name a few.
If brands embrace millennial-created content on social media, they can stay on top of youthful trends as they happen, and immediately incorporate the new perspectives into cutting-edge campaigns that resonate with this powerful buying group.