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.