Marketing to millennials is easy… if your company is less than 15 years old. 

In this time frame, you’ve had the chance to frame your marketing head-to-toe to be geared towards millennials. From your voice, your branding and maybe even your product. 

But what about the other guys? For companies that aren’t rooted in targeting millennials, suddenly shifting gears to attract a millennial audience that is different from their core fan base is a tall task. The reward, however, has many companies going all-in on the idea. Opening their doors to a massive new population of influential consumers and sky-rocketing their business to the stratosphere is too appealing.

Companies like Coke, encapsulated by the “Share a Coke” campaign, have executed the transition to perfection. Others like Applebee’s and JC Penny have seen their efforts end in total disaster. So what’s the key to marketing to millennials? Here are a few tips to guide your marketing plan.

Don’t forget about your customers

Listen, your customers are awesome. They have stuck with you and supported you from the start. It’s not wise to turn your back on them. As Lorraine recently explained, the biggest sin committed by companies like Applebee’s is that they get so obsessed with appealing to a younger, millennial audience that they completely forget about their current customer base. If your efforts don’t pay off, you run the risk of having completely alienated them and being left with no customers at all. 

It’s OK to go after new customers, just don’t forget about your current ones. We successfully navigated these waters with Randall Beans, one of our clients. In business for over a century, their primary customer is typically middle-aged to older women who purchase their beans to cook for their family. But, Randall Beans wanted to expand their fan base to a younger audience. 

To help them achieve their goal, we implemented “Powered by Beans” content to show beans fueling an active and adventurous lifestyle. This content is very different from what the core Randall Beans fan is looking for, but we still weave it into our ordinary marketing. Why?

Because we also continue to mix this content with roots in farming, pictures of their product and recipe photos that not only create visually powerful content that performs well over social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, but is also inspiring and attractive to the core Randall Beans fan base. 

We are able to provide content geared towards two completely different audiences through one company without alienating either because we take the time to show our appreciation for both.

Advertise where millennials are

Before you sell to a new audience, you have to understand them. For effective advertising and rebranding focused on millennials, your message has to reach them. This boils down to one thing: traditional advertising is out the window.

Around 25% of U.S. households don’t have cable anymore and millennials without cable contracts sits at 30%. With the rise in streaming music and podcasts, fewer and fewer millennials are listening to traditional radio as well. If millennials are your target, don’t spend your advertising budget on a new TV spot or air time on the radio (although podcasts are a different story). Your message won’t be heard and you’ll have wasted your time and money.

Instead, focus your advertising efforts in more effective areas. Of course I’m talking about online marketing. Facebook advertising and Google AdWord campaigns will help you reach your desired millennial demographic and also give you more bang for your buck while you’re at it. You can target age groups, behaviors and/or keywords to not only find millennials, but millennials who are more likely to become customers.

Embrace trends, but don’t let them define you

When you are trying to appeal to millennials, it’s extremely tempting to jump the shark and immerse yourself in every little popular thing. While it’s important to be mindful of popular trends, it may not make sense for you to actually use them.

Much like staying true to your core customer, it’s equally important to stay true to your core brand and voice. Some companies have seamlessly made the jump to platforms like Twitter and Instagram. They successfully incorporate hashtags and emojis into their advertisements. If these kinds of things don’t feel like something your company would normally be, don’t. These guys can get away with it because it makes sense for them. It doesn’t make sense for everyone.

Trying to embrace a trend that doesn’t make sense is like trying to fit 10 pounds of mud in a 5 pound bag. You can force it, sure. Force emojis into advertising. Force using hashtags constantly. But at the end of the day it’s going to be awkward and your millennial audience will pick up on it in a heartbeat. The only thing you will have accomplished is driving them away.

Before jumping on board a new hype train, take some time to consider if it makes sense and how you can effectively use it for your benefit.

Changing gears to accommodate an entirely new audience can be a challenge with high highs and low lows. But, we can help. Start your digital marketing strategy today.