7 Smart Ways To Reach Gen Y

Emily Smith on May 18, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , ,

I really enjoy going to marketing conferences; they’re a chance to learn from experts in a variety of content and tech fields and to meet peers creating some of the awesome campaigns we all see out there in the world. Digital Marketing Summit (DMS) was no exception. With a key focus on Generation Y, aka millennials, and how to reach them, expert marketers shared plenty of smart strategies. Check out these 7 smart ways to reach millennials like me, from the experts at DMS.

1. Be Authentic.

Be transparent. Be real in all your dealings. Don’t be afraid to show the human, uncertain side of who you are. Millennials expect service from real people, real people who provide them value. In his presentation on making email suck less, Michael Barber advised that marketers should not be scared to simply ask customers what they’re looking for. It may be that customers are hitting your email ‘unsubscribe’ button not because they want out of all receiving messages from you, but because they are annoyed at receiving your emails too often. They might prefer emails once per week rather than once per day.

The DMS panel on Agency Evolution was surprisingly candid about it being in their interest to be real with their clients on what they can and cannot provide, and to work together in the long term. For them, this meant the best people could be assigned to the most important projects and provide maximum value, instead of having to constantly work on a new pitch. Sounds a little like cheesy sales-speak, right? And yet, when I think about it, I’d rather have someone who knows and understands my geek goals for Geektropolis working on the content I’m putting out. I’d rather not have to train new people on my company’s geek culture all the time. Authenticity is key for my audience, so trusted advisors who know my audience are welcome.

2. Know That I Trust My Friends And Subject Matter Experts The Most.

In his talk about social selling, LinkedIn’s Ashu Avasthi advised digital specialists to get referred to a sales lead by a friend. Why? Because 59% of Millennials say they’re swayed by friends’ opinions, more than any other age group. (Check out this article for more on millennials and the power of referrals).

Avasthi also noted that 74% of buyers making large decisions expect that your brand will be a thought leader. Potential buyers will learn to trust your leadership as you share your relevant knowledge and opinion over time. They come to depend on your expertise, whether it’s in marketing, or in building a birdhouse in the backyard, and turn to you when it’s time to make a purchase. Millennials are 44% more likely to trust experts, even if they’re complete strangers.

3. Millennials expect their tech to evolve.

We are the first to have grown up with computers (Commodore 64, anyone?). We’ve learned to understand the internet from the beginning of Google. This means we’re good at understanding interfaces and visual languages, and we tend to adjust readily to new programs, operating systems, and devices. We are so ready to adjust that sometimes we’re even ready for new developments before they actually happen. Personally, I’ve had mixed success searching on my phone for a hairdresser “near me”, or a sushi place “near Bathurst and Bloor”, and I’m more than ready for an improved search function that will help me find the product or service I want, when I want it. Happily, I know Google is working on this. Check out what they have to say about brands being there when consumers want them, in what they call “micro-moments”.

At DMS, Michael Barber also talked about the importance of making email portable for mobile viewing. Apparently, 43% of people read emails on their mobile phones. This means emails with a big font and a smaller number of words are more effective. So is personalization. Greet me by my name. Show me dynamic and interactive content. If it moves, I’m more likely to engage with it.

4. Tech changes very quickly. Move that quickly too.

Both the panel on Agency Evolution and Jeffrey Hayzlett talked about the importance of keeping up with the pace of change. Marketers must do so because millennials expect marketers to keep up with us on the platforms we use. Hayzlett stressed that even for a business celebrity and seasoned marketer like himself, willingness to be a beginner for a while is key. For panel members Alan McLarenJennifer Davidson, Melanie Dunn, Stephen Brown) this meant their companies need to create a culture of constant learning. They said their millennial employees are increasingly given time to innovate, to “play” with their own projects, because the final result is people who can implement tech in a new creative way.

5. Reach us on the platforms we’re on.

Getting me to add or switch platforms or apps is a big deal. I interact with my friends where they are and my brand audience where they are. It’s not likely that I will download your app, so it’s better if you try to reach me where I already am. According to Shama Hyder, I’m using social media to showcase my own identity, so ask yourself, what does doing business with your company let me say about my own identity? Reach out to me in a way that lets me showcase who I am.

6. Teach me or entertain me.

A talk on Virtual Reality (VR) was part of the DMS day because it’s a developing method for marketers to make branded experiences, a way for them to let a Gen Y audience access a place or experience they normally couldn’t. Millennials are less and less into buying ’stuff’, and prefer to spend their money doing something exciting. Joshua Manricks and Stefan Grambart from Secret Location presented VAN Beethoven at DMS, which they put together with the LA Philharmonic to let non-traditional symphony audiences enjoy a very special LA Philharmonic performance. Watch out for next steps in VR, which will include walking around in an entire space, like the VOID is developing in Utah, and is now taking on the road to New York City.

If I know my friends will learn something or be entertained by a given piece of content, including hearing about my time spent in VR, I’ll share. If I’m shown an obvious ad, I won’t.

7. Don’t call me a millennial.

Call me an early adopter. Call me a tech integrator. Call me a woman-on-the-go. Or call me Emily. But don’t call me a demographic. Rather, tell me a great story on one of the platforms where I hang out.

At the end of the day, millennials are very media aware, they appreciate authenticity and tend to gravitate towards brands who pride themselves on their transparency, blemishes and all. Like previous generations, they trust their community’s opinion on what is cool or not and will believe someone who is an authority on the subject as long as they don’t reek of sales pitch. Millennials use their tech as ubiquitously as most humans use utensils. They expect their tools will grow with them and their needs and that marketers will keep up with that evolution too. Because they want to be reached on the platforms they’re currently using and to be entertained while doing it. Just don’t ever … call them millennials.


Emily Smith is *no campfire required’s Head of Business Development. She’s the connector of brand clients with our company, so we can connect them with their audiences in the long term.

Photos: ‘Friends with Mobile Phones” by Gerry Knight & ‘Street Food Festival‘ by StateofIsrael