When it comes to how they engage with brands, millennials—more than any other generation of consumers—crave authenticity, and experiential marketing can create that for brands.
Millennials are the first generation of digital natives. They’ve grown up in a world where the line between virtual and reality have been blurred almost beyond recognition. Their desire for authenticity has undoubtedly pushed marketers to raise the bar for how we reach out to all consumers—but especially to the millennial set.
Looking to introduce a new experiential marketing program aimed at millennials—or to amp up an existing campaign? Here are four tips that reflect the unique mindset of millennial consumers.
- Showcase corporate citizenship.
This is a generation that has grown up knowing that it’s cool to care about the planet and believing that “giving back” is a must—and they demand the same from the brands they consume. If your brand has an established environmental platform or donates proceeds to a nonprofit, be sure to integrate those programs during live events.
Even better, leverage those programs to actually engage millennials. As part of a program we developed for L.L. Bean, the company donated $1 to the Student Conservation Association each time a consumer uploaded a photo with a designated hashtag. Enabling consumers to do something for the greater good is a smart way to get them involved—and show off the brand’s community-mindedness.
- Tell the truth.
Sure, honesty is always the best policy. But it’s even more so when connecting with millennials. For one thing, they’re the most educated generation of consumers we’ve ever seen. If you misrepresent your product, they’ll either know it immediately or they’ll do their research to find out the truth. Among other things, that means the brand ambassadors you send to experiential marketing events had better be highly trained on your product and messaging, and—just as importantly—if they don’t have the answer to a consumer’s question, they should know where to direct your millennial consumers for more information (your website or a customer service number, for example).
Of course, the other reason the truth counts is that sharing—whether in person or via social media—is one of the defining aspect of the millennial experience. That’s invaluable if you deliver a great experience, but one false interaction is sure to spread quickly among your target market.
- Plan instant gratification.
Because millennials demand transparency, we’ve found that building in opportunities for instant gratification is a must. A prime example: For decades, at experiential marketing events, brands have offered sweepstakes entries in exchange for consumers’ contact and demographic info. But often, the prize giveaway wouldn’t actually take place until weeks or months later—at the end of a concert tour, sports season or mobile tour.
Consumers had to take it on faith that somewhere, some time, someone ultimately received the big prize. But that doesn’t fly with millennials, who want to see with their own eyes that, yes, that grand prize actually made it into the hands of a real person. For a college campus tour we managed for Contiki, we gave students a peek into different cultures with five-minute “around-the-world” rickshaw tours and, at each stop, gave away a trip for two to any Contiki destination. For another college tour, one we managed for our client Joe Fresh, students had the chance to enter to win a $500 gift card. The prize was awarded on the spot, each afternoon. This not only gave students a reason to stick around the event (or come back after class) but it built trust, which is key.
- Create meaningful participation.
The beauty of experiential marketing is that it creates a platform for real engagement—but we can take that a step further with millennials. Use live marketing to deliver experiences that advance their interests or career goals. Some savvy brands build in opportunities for millennials to join their team as brand ambassadors. (Who better to talk up the product to other millennials?)
Or bring students to company headquarters or a retail location and get them to share their insights on how your product or your marketing could be better positioned to their peers. College-age millennials, especially, are hungry for that kind of experience, and it can be a valuable resume-building opportunity if it’s positioned the right way.
Even—or maybe especially—for a generation that has grown up on digital, nothing else can replace the authentic, one-to-one interactions that live marketing at events deliver. But to truly maximize the value of experiential, it’s critical speak to millennials in ways that reflect what they want from the brands they do business with.
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