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Children of the revolution: how franchises can market to millennials

Written by Eric Johansson on Thursday, 14 July 2016. Posted in Sales & Marketing

Given Generation Y is transforming the world of business, if franchises want to successfully attract millennials they better tear up the marketing rulebook

Children of the revolution: how franchises can market to millennials

If you’ve missed out the increasing obsession with Generation Y – the generation born between the years 1980 and 2000 – then you clearly haven’t been paying attention. After all, the press has been dissecting the impact the cohort has been having on marketing since Advertising Age first coined the phrase in an editorial back in 1993. While franchises have everything to win by turning the Zuckerberg-generation into customers, marketing to millennials is easier said than done. “The most important thing brands have to realise is that they need to say goodbye to the good old days of marketing,” says Amy Shaw, digital PR executive at Curated Digital, the digital marketing agency.

According to a 2015 survey from Elite Daily, the publication dedicated to millennials, only one in 100 echo boomers – so-called because they are the echoes of the baby boomer generation – would trust a brand more due to a compelling ad campaign. “Millennials don’t take adverts at face value,” says Shaw. “For instance, if Coca-Cola tells them to buy their products for X, Y and Z reasons, they won’t just take the company’s word for it.”

Because of this, franchises wanting to capture Generation Y’s attention better swap traditional marketing strategies for a slightly less orthodox approach, which – according to a recent survey from Protein, the communications agency – will help them appeal to 76% of millennials. And with 14.7 million potential Gen Y customers in the UK, franchises have everything to win by stepping up their millennial marketing game and addressing echo boomers with the right tone of voice. “A lot of people underestimate just how smart modern young people are,” say Kevin O’Connor, content marketing director at Greenlight, the digital marketing agency. “They think all the text-speak, emojis and acronyms currently flying around Snapchat are the only things Generation Y cares about.”

Instead of simply hashtagging messages on Twitter and signing off adverts with LOL and OMG, franchises must recognise that Generation Y does not consist of one shallow homogenous group. “The term millennial can be a bit of a misnomer,” says O’Connor. “You have to break down millennials into different segments; they’re all different and respond to different things.” This isn’t hard to find evidence for: just consider that the pop queen Taylor Swift and the black metal band Ghost both rose to fame in the past decade.

Bearing in mind the multitude of differences displayed amongst members of Generation Y, franchises need to pinpoint exactly which slice of the millennial cake they want to take a bite off. “You have to know exactly which demographic you are pitching to because blanket efforts trying to reach all millennials won’t work,” says Shaw.

But deciding who to target is just the beginning; franchises still have to research that group and find out which publications they read, how they spend their time and where they hang out online. Doing so will enable franchises to address Generation Y customers in the right way and to find out where the best place to start a conversation is. “If you notice that they have a strong presence on Facebook, then that’s where you need to be,” says O’Connor.

However, even after pinpointing which social media platform their target audience hangs out on, franchises still face the challenge of making prospective customers interact with them. For millennials to stop, read and listen, franchises must understand why Generation Y is also referred to as Generation Now. “They know what they want and they don’t want to wait for it,” says Fiona Baker, head of franchise sales at Nicholas Humphreys, the lettings franchise specialising in student accommodation.

In the 18 years since it first opened for business, Nicholas Humphreys’ employees have witnessed the rise of Generation Y first-hand and therefore understand the need for speed. “So when we’re writing for Facebook, for instance, the key point needs to be at the very top,” says Baker. “It needs to be short and snappy, ensuring that they don’t scroll past it.”

However, swiftness is also paramount in other ways. With the Elite Daily survey revealing that 37% of Generation Y takes the recommendations of friends on board, franchises cannot afford to offer poor customer service. “If they tweet at you, you better get back to them within five minutes,” says Shaw. “If you don’t, they’ll get more irritated with every tweet.” And while Generation X, the immediate predecessors of Generation Y, may have told a few of their friends when they were unhappy with a product or service, millennials can make their dissatisfaction known to hundreds of people with a single tweet. “They’ll voice their opinions,” says Shaw. The only way to ensure their sentiments stay positive is to engage with millennial customers quickly and in the right way.

Having grown up in the fast-paced digital age, echo boomers have little patience for lengthy conversations. “People are becoming more and more unwilling to have a telephone conversation,” says Baker. In fact, according to a Salesforce survey from 2015, 34% of millennials would rather have their teeth cleaned than to call a support line. Instead of engaging with customers over the phone or meeting millennials face-to-face, Nicholas Humphreys has ensured that customers can interact with them via email, text messages and on social media platforms. “Why would you have a ten-minute conversation when you can simply send a text?” asks Baker. 

But there are more ways to market to millennials than through your customer service and social media posts. Franchises can also boost their internet hit-rate by tailoring their content to the things millennial customers might google. “The first point of reference is always a search engine when they’re looking to buy something,” says O’Connor. This means franchises must ensure prospective customers can easily find their content through a search engine by using common terms and phrases.

Franchises can also build their rep with Gen Y simply by doing good things, since millennials are widely known to have a strong social conscience. “They are huge advocates of gender equality, LGBT rights, minority rights and everything like that,” says Shaw. However, this cuts both ways: according to the aforementioned Protein survey, 77% of millennials feel that brands also have a moral responsibility to improve the world. “If a brand shows that it also has these core values at heart, then millennials are much more likely to get on-board with what they are selling,” continues Shaw.

Yet, franchises don’t want to proclaim how important the environment if that statement doesn’t actually ring true. “You don’t want to con them,” says Shaw. “If you say you care about the environment, then people will research that; if they see that you haven’t even done a Twitter campaign, then they’ll become very wary of your brand.”

Levelling-up your online marketing game, researching which segment of Generation Y you want to attract and speeding up your response time may seem like a lot of work but, ultimately, tapping into almost 15 million consumers will be worth it. 

About the Author

Eric Johansson

As web editor and resident Viking, Johansson ensures Elite Franchise is filled with engaging and eclectic entrepreneurial stories. While one of our most prolific franchise writers, he has sharpened his editorial teeth by writing about entertainment and fitness. Follow him on Twitter at @EricJohanssonLJ to catch up with his stream of consciousness.

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