I don’t relate to your campaign just because it uses millennial lingo
Modern companies continue to stumble trying to get millennials to engage with their products and brands.
I don’t relate to your campaign just because it uses millennial “lingo.” There, I said it. Just because you use an image macro, or lolcat (which, by the way, hasn’t been in style for years), or add some hashtags and emojis doesn’t mean I will relate to your brand. In fact, when I see a show or movie that makes up it’s own hashtag and tries to get me to use it, I feel less inclined to participate.
Misusing the organically created tools of my generation like this just shows that you’re even more out of touch with us than ever.
Taking the communicative tools of my generation out of context and trying to somehow jam your brand into it isn’t going to get me and my age group to rush to stores and buy your product. And misusing the organically created tools of my generation like this just shows that you’re even more out of touch with us than ever.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Let’s look at a great example: the Share a Coke campaign vs. Say it with Pepsi. If you haven’t heard of these campaigns, the basic premise of each is very similar. Add some small new feature to bottles and cans of the drink to make them unique and try to draw consumers out to the store asking for them. The key difference between the two, though, is that Coke had a documented increase in sales after years of decline, while I can’t find much of any similar success stories or even evidence of one for Pepsi, and I doubt I will see much of one. And I think I know why.
Coke did so many things right with their campaign. They kept their message simple and straightforward: “Share a Coke.” This encourages the social behavior they want to see consumers engage in. “Oh this can has Dan on it and I work with a guy named Dan. Might as well grab it to give to him, it’s only another dollar,” or even simply, “Might as well share a picture of this coke with Dan!” Now they’ve gotten a consumer to actively engage with their brand and gotten a free advertisement between a couple potential customers. The products were personal, simple, and easy to explain. Their campaign was the same. They started with 250 of the most popular names for millennials along with phrases like friends, family, the office, the team, etc, and branched out into more specific ones as time went on.
Pepsi on the other hand, has totally misjudged why Coke’s campaign was successful and is attempting to replicate it (as far as I can tell) by placing hundreds of emojis on cans and bottles for their customers to share and enjoy. The problem with this is multifaceted, but the core issue is that an emoji is not personal. They could put any number of cute faces and pieces of artwork on a bottle but that doesn’t say my name or speak to me, nor does it motivate me to share it. “Dan sure likes the pizza emoji! Can’t wait to send him an out of context picture of this pizza emoji Pepsi!” or even, “Wow, these Pepsi have emojis! I bet Dan would love this!” Imagine yourself saying that in the line at the store and tell me it doesn’t feel completely inauthentic.
Further, their campaign failed on smaller, subtler issues. Instead of licensing or borrowing the emoji designs from a major company like Apple, Google, or Facebook, they created their own, new, “Pepsi-fied” designs. What’s bad about this? It goes back to looking relatable. Instead of using a small picture that I’m used to seeing daily, a design that in some way I’m at least abstractly connected to culturally, they’ve only referenced this idea. Not only do I not see it as personal, now I see Pepsi as sort of the old man still using text-based smilies in AOL chat :-(
Advertising literally slips by us, having so little conscious effect it might as well be laughable.
Authenticity has become a major factor for my generation, and we like to relate to a company on a personal level, even if it is a multinational brand like Coke. As Matthew Tyson’s article outlines, “Only about 1% of millennials claim that a compelling ad influences them. The rest are almost naturally skeptical of advertising. They think it’s all spin, so they don’t bother paying attention.” He is referring to the Millennial Branding study done in early 2015, which also points out that “Millennials […] expect brands to publish content online before they make a purchase and rank authenticity […] as more important than the content itself.”
Advertising literally slips by us, having so little conscious effect it might as well be laughable. In fact, oftentimes, we mock brands and companies and try to keep social media for ourselves because we see it as our domain. There are social rules and doctrines on these platforms just as there are in real life, and companies need to learn how to interact within them and present themselves authentically or they’ll continue to be baffled by millennials.