Three Ways to Get Real with Your Millennial Audience

03.26.2015 Sara Brasfield3 min

You may have a career’s worth of experience running ad campaigns, but when you’re marketing to Millennial consumers, there is more to connecting with them than you may have considered.

With 80 million-plus Millennials spending some $1.3 trillion annually, you can’t afford not to advertise to this generation. But are you wasting your money doing so? If your ad creative isn’t high-quality, the answer could be yes. 

Sure, Millennials spend hours watching YouTube videos on their phones—but that doesn’t mean your TV commercial’s on-air creative can take the same rudimentary approach. Consider the competition you’re facing. Millennials have short attention spans (no wonder: they’ve grown up with access to millions of videos, social media streams and every friend they’ve ever known on their smartphones at the touch of a button). To grab the attention of this ultra-distractible crowd, your ad has to stand out. Here’s how. 


1.    Connect on an emotional level.

In a Boston Consulting Group study, half of Millennials agreed that the brands they choose “say something about who I am, my values and where I fit in.” Millennials want advertising they connect with emotionally. This group chooses brands based on a relationship with the company. Your creative concept has to do more than reinforce your brand — it has to tell a story that resonates with Millennials themselves. 


2. Don’t try too hard.

Image: The VanDevere Bunch

In a recent NPR story about ads Millennials love and hate, the hamsters ads for the Kia Soul were dismissed as an example of “trying too hard.” While those ads may contain quality creative on a technical level, like a fifty-something dad sporting skinny jeans, their attempt to be hip strikes Millennials as forced.

Instead, Millennials in the story praised ads that are “genuine,” “heartfelt,” “socially conscious,” “entertaining,” “innovative,” “subtle” and “cool.” The hard sell is out; underselling is in. Be real. It’s a tall order, but with authenticity so critical to the Millennial audience, color-by-numbers creative won’t cut it. 


3. Expand your ad message to multiple channels.

Image: Shop With Meaning

Investing in quality creative gives you a strong foundation for expanding your brand message to multiple channels—which is also essential with Millennials. Consider eyeglass-frames retailer Warby Parker, a brand Millennials love. They run high-quality creative on TV (watch here, here and here), share it on YouTube and expand the conversation on social media with behind-the-scenes looks at the ad shoots, actors and more. It’s working: Viewers post comments like “I love that they use actors and actresses of all colors,” “Love what this company represents :)!” and “I love this song.” 

Warby Parker is “getting real” and attracting loyal Millennial customers who become advocates for the brand. By investing in quality creative that is true to its brand, forges an emotional connection with Millennial consumers, and doesn’t oversell the product—then sharing it in multiple marketing channels—your company can do the same. 

Looking for a few ideas to jump-start your creative approach?  Check out Cox Media’s “Investing in Quality” e-book for a deeper look into creative advertising campaigns.

About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is the Content Marketing Manager for Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than seven years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the (now virtual!) office, Sara loves spending time running, reading and supporting her favorite teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

View All of Sara Brasfield's Blog Posts

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