Nearly every marketer today is making millennials a priority or at least working to understand what drives and engages this influential group. It’s not just because they are the largest generation by population size, but also because they’re more digitally connected than any other generation before them and their spending power is quite high. India’s millennial population is estimated to be 440 million, one of the largest in the world. As per a Morgan Stanley report, millennials are expected to drive Internet growth - especially online transactions - in the coming years.
The digital marketing landscape has been constantly evolving primarily led by an insatiable appetite of millennials for digital content. Millennials are the only generation that spends more time consuming digital media than traditional formats like TV or print. What’s more, nearly 70 percent of millennials are influenced by the posts of friends on social networking sites when it comes to making purchase decisions. Considering this, and their natural inclination to share content, content marketing emerges an especially effective way to reach this coveted demographic.
But that doesn't mean it's easy. Content marketing is about telling a story that resonates with your audience and finding a relevant channel to deliver it. While that may sound simple, it really isn’t. From the time of direct mails to whitepapers and webinars, brands have been doing just that. What makes it suddenly so challenging? Well, that’s because in its new avatar the sheer scale and speed at which brands need to engage with their audiences is mind-boggling. Content marketing has come of age and now we are seeing a new wave which features more explicit, high performance, content to directly engage consumers.
Here are a few basic principles marketers should consider when engaging with the crucial millennial consumer –
• Be Authentic: According to our own research, millennials are the first generation to be open not just to receiving ads, but to engaging with and sharing them. Millennials will resonate more with brands if the branded content provides some sort of value to them such as a travel hack or a how-to play a guitar video.
• Idea-driven stories: Traditionally advertising could tell a standard, canned story – controlled by the brand. With content marketing, stories are dynamically formed. A brand can only kick off an idea and set it into motion. If it is powerful enough, then users carry it forward. They react, contribute, act and start shaping something which becomes a brand story. It is almost like a flash mob which is ruled by users’ involvement rather than mandated by brand. For instance to support brands give a fresh approach to content, we launched the Creatrs Network on Tumblr. It curates user artwork and artists to offer brands and advertisers for syndication and use in their own broader campaigns.
• Personality Wins: Millennials identify with brands that show off their personalities and align with generational values of transparency, equality, creativity and positivity (to name a few).
• Go for the LOLs: According to studies, ads that bring the humour drive a 50 percent lift in brand familiarity with millennials, compared to viewers overall. Millennials watch comedy more than any other video genre online, highlighting their desire for fun and positivity. We can’t all be funny all the time, but knowing when and how to crack a joke or tug at the heartstrings will result in better engagement from this audience. Always strive to generate content that gives millennials an emotional pay-out.
• Don’t Judge. Content that’s judgment-free, open and honest appeals broadly to this group, whose members often engage in self-expression themselves. This is the first generation to share their lives on social media, so appealing to their openness and social nature while reserving any judgment will make your content shine and increase engagement.
• Act like the Locals. Because this generation consumes information through multiple devices and platforms, it’s important to develop content that is native to each social network, whether it’s a blog, a photo-sharing site, or a video platform.
Marketers need to speak the native language of whatever platform is most appropriate for their audience and brand. What will tip the scales though is when brands think about content, the way they think about products. Place the user at the centre. Create a vision for content excellence. Use creativity to create a connection, and then take it forward by being relevant, and wow the user with high quality content. At all times, leverage seamless, non-invasive advertising solutions like Native advertising to keep the content experience immersive and unbroken.
At the end of the day, content marketing is about contextual relevance. It’s a new way for brands to tell their stories and be part of a real conversation with consumers. While Millennials may be more open to content marketing than older consumers, it must be executed with a keen understanding of who this group is and what makes them tick. If done right, you too could get a slice of the huge millennial spending power pie.
(The author is the VP & MD, Yahoo India)