How to Connect With Millennials

How to Connect With Millennials

Two recent articles provide insight from consumer psychology into how brands can best engage Gen Y, and context for how Pepsi accomplished this with the Pepsi Refresh Project.

Paloma M. Vazquez
  • 22 september 2010

Two recent pieces provide some context and insights for how to best connect with the Millennial generation (broadly, spanning ages 11-31, born between 1978 and 2000) – who we know to be key to many brands’ long-term business relevance, as well as significant consumers of digital media.

A piece at Marketing Sherpa discussed consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow’s year-long research project on Generation Y, which yielded insights into their motivations and interests. These insights can be applied by marketers to develop messages that will resonate with this audience:

  1. Visuals and symbolism resonate: Gen Ys prefer to process visual information – including analogies and symbolic communication like stories, metaphors and charts – vs. verbal or textual information. Experiences designed for them should be intuitive and easily understood at first exposure (and sight). They do not want to read instructions.
  2. Gen Ys want to be appreciated and understood: The focus on self-esteem while growing up, coupled with the very early exposure to the internet and technology have contributed to Gen Y’s particular need for intimacy. The highest status they can achieve is to be influential and to get attention. Potential ways that marketers can accomplish this include enabling product customization, soliciting and responding to reviews and comments, and forming ambassador programs – among others.
  3. Innovation attracts attention: The growth of the Internet and the prominence of gadgets have taught Gen Y to place a high value on innovation. Marketers can demonstrate innovation both in how they employ technology in their product, service and communications approach (media), and by crafting messages and content that speak to Gen Y’s  desire to be on the ‘cutting edge’. This includes quickly responding to cultural instances that are relevant to Millennials. For instance, Pepsi announced they would merchandise their cola bottles naked on Argentina store shelves, as a response to Maradona’s promise that he would run through Buenos Aires naked if Argentina won the 2010 World Cup (they did not). The goodwill generated by the brand was invaluable.
  4. Faster processes are highly desired: Technology’s enabling timely, oftentimes immediate communication have contributed to Millennials’ impatience and higher threshold for stimulation – they get bored easily. Marketers should be watchful of the time it takes them to respond to customer service comments on inquiries, and should ensure messaging and communications are tied to very recent events that matter to Gen Ys (i.e., the World Cup).
  5. Gen Y craves drama and emotional connections: Gen Ys respond better to messages and content that is emotionally intense (i.e., the teen angst of Twilight). Marketers can incorporate more emotion into their campaigns by telling a story. Products should be featured in the context of a story that includes emotional connections that Gen Ys can relate to – without making the product’s features and functionality THE story.

The second piece is an interview conducted by Ypulse with Anamaria Irazabal, leader of the Pepsi Refresh Project, to gain insight into why and how the project so strongly resonated with Gen Y. While the whole interview is worth reading in its entirety, we were particularly struck by the particular notion that it wasn’t just the Project that Pepsi crafted to relate to Millennials – but also their brand values that they aim to align directly with those personal values that Gen Y holds dear;

What we want is that when people, and specifically Millennials are standing in a store and staring at the shelves they buy the brand that is aligned with the values that they hold. We know that Millennials have very strong values about making the world a better place, taking the power within their hands and making change … real. It’s all about building an emotional connection. It’s all about the conversations that they’re looking for and it’s not only about supporting a cause, it’s about supporting an idea that they believe in, that they can relate to on a personal level. Supporting a friend’s desire to build a new baseball field in their own community is more immediate and more powerful than supporting a distant cause or charity. The feeling of autonomy and the ability to choose that the Pepsi Refresh project offers is democracy and engagement at it’s best.

MarketingSherpa: “Connect with Generation Y: 5 Insights from Recent Research”

Ypulse: “Ypulse Interview: Anamaria Irazabal, Pepsi Refresh Project”

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