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How Kraft, Heineken and the President Are Reaching Millennials

By May 06, 2014

By Mark Hodges

To reach your target audience, you have to understand what makes them tick. To many members of older generations, Millennials are a mystery. But that mystery is growing up and spending more money. If you don’t learn how and where to reach Millennials, be prepared to lose their business.

Millennials pose a challenge to marketers because they don’t respond well to traditional advertising. In fact, only 17% of Millennials think a TV ad has ever prompted them to buy something.

Because technology is near and dear to this generation’s heart (80% of Millennials sleep with their phones next to their beds), content marketing can reach this hyper-connected group better than traditional advertising — as long as you do it right.

Follow the President’s Example

obama-fernsThe best three pieces of advice about content marketing can be gleaned from President Obama’s appearance on Zach Galifianakis’s offbeat web series, “Between Two Ferns,” to get Millennials to sign up for healthcare. To follow his example, you should:

1. Be honest with your communication.

Galifianakis made Obama’s intention to promote HealthCare.gov obvious when he said, “Let’s get this out of the way. What did you come here to plug?”

Don’t try to be sneaky with Millennials. If you’re advertising, say so. That type of honesty will go far and prevent you from coming off as fake. Millennials appreciate authenticity and can see through a thinly veiled sales pitch.

2. Provide real value.

If you’re producing quality content you want associated with your brand, focus on creating something informative or entertaining your target audience will genuinely enjoy. It’s safe to say that the president successfully chose a hilarious venue to get his message across. It went viral because people loved its entertainment value. And the day the video went live, HealthCare.gov saw a 40% increase in traffic, with FunnyorDie.com being the top referral source.

3. Utilize social media.

The limited reach of these saturated channels might be discouraging, but don’t ignore social media altogether. Sixty-three percent of Millennials stay updated on brands through social networks, which makes them a valuable avenue for getting in front of your audience and interacting with Millennials in a genuine and direct way. The White House effectively used social channels, including @WhiteHouse and @HealthCareGov, to continue the conversation and promote the interview.

Bad Branded Content to Avoid

If you think any kind of content marketing will attract Millennials, think again. The following efforts will fall flat if used to reach this group.

1. Email

Promoting your content through email could be a losing battle. Email is a dwindling priority on Millennials’ list of daily activities. Email usage among people ages 12 to 34 has declined 27% over the past year, and tools such as Gmail’s “Promotions” inbox have made it easier for people to sort out junk mail. Seventy percent of Millennials also say email overload is their top pet peeve when it comes to brand marketing.

2. Overly Promotional Videos

Blatantly promotional content that’s supposed to be “cool” will do nothing but make Millennials cringe. They are increasingly wary of branded content designed to directly convert sales because it doesn’t resonate in an honest way.

This story by Samsung does nothing but associate the brand with a creepy ski trip. If your branded videos look like commercials, you’re in trouble.

The solution to this problem is humor. Sites such as The Onion work with brands to create engaging and amusing content that also ties in with the brand. This promo video for Vitamin Water got my attention because of the prank, but the brand stuck with me afterward, too.

Companies That Are Doing Branded Content Right

These three brands are utilizing relevant new avenues that Millennials love engaging with to capture their attention.

1. Kraft: BuzzFeed Lists (Native Advertising)

A retailer’s ability to make you smile is 33%  more important to a Millennial than it is to a Baby Boomer, and BuzzFeed is a great tool for entertainment.

In the past few months, Kraft has taken a stab at content marketing through BuzzFeed by posting amusing, nostalgic lists, such as “15 Ways We Passed The Time When We Were Kids” and “12 Foods That Always Taste Like Home.”

These posts were shared on Facebook nearly 6,000 times and reached approximately 600,000 people’s News Feeds. The cost for a brand to “partner” with BuzzFeed is approximately $100,000, which is comparable to a one-time, 30-second spot on prime time.

2. Office Depot: SmallBizClub (Non-Promotional Owned Media)

Thirty-five percent of employed Millennials have started a side business for extra income. So instead of strictly selling office supplies through traditional channels, Office Depot is diversifying its marketing efforts with its own content platform, SmallBizClub. By developing quality content that is directly useful to the tech-savvy generation, Office Depot hopes to nurture long-term sales through education.

3. Heineken: Ideas Brewery (User-Generated Content)

Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than any other form of media. That’s why Heineken’s Ideas Brewery has generated so much success. Over the past three years, the company has launched four “challenges” (such as sustainable packaging) and prompted participants to submit possible solutions.

This program has driven social engagement for the brand, given Heineken insight into consumers’ visions for the future, and lent inspiration for blog posts and other content marketing efforts — all while garnering plenty of free media exposure.

These may seem like ultra-creative tactics to reach a difficult demographic, but these companies are doing what every good marketing strategy does: reacting to the target audience’s habits and desires.

If you have difficulty understanding Millennials, hire more of them so they can add insight and tell you what they think is funny, which will allow your brand to exude authenticity. They will help you reach other Millennials and make your company stand out as a brand that truly “gets it.” And when you make a genuine connection with Millennials, they’ll spread your message for you.

Mark Hodges is a brand strategist at Influence & Co.