The typical image of businesses we grew up with is that of the nameless, faceless corporation. They operate behind their huge, cold, stone walls, and we don’t really expect them to care about us one way or the other. It was a simple transaction: I’ll give you my money, and you’ll give me your product (or service) in return.
We say “was” because all that has now changed. These days, and especially because of the rise of millennials, customers expect to actually be happy with your brand before they fork their cash over.
DEFINITION: Millennials (Millennial generation)
The term Millennials is usually considered to apply to individuals who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century. The precise delineation varies from one source to another, however. Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of the 1991 book Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, are often credited with coining the term. Howe and Strauss define the Millennial cohort as consisting of individuals born between 1982 and 2004.
So what’s really behind this marketing trend?
As mentioned above, millennials are partly responsible. The generation born between the early 1980’s and early 2000’s is incredibly self-aware: they know what they want, and they know when and how they want it.
The members of this generation not only know themselves, they also want others to know who they are. There is a general striving for authenticity, both in how they present themselves and how they want others (including brands) to be presented to them. Millennials crave genuine relationships, even with entities from whom they buy their products.
Just why are millennials so powerful, anyway?
One reason is that they have started to enter the workforce, and so have buying power, which they exercise to its fullest extent.
The other reason is the prevalence of the Internet, and the rise of social media in particular. — this is the other thing that’s also responsible for the trend of being “human” as a brand.
Social media gave people the ability to be heard. It shifted power and influence from the big traditional media (like television, radio, and print) to the common man, and isn’t that a heady thing? Imagine being just a normal person, practically a nobody, and going head to head with big corporations and news outlets, calling them out on their flaws and inconsistencies.
Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites provide equal footing with the powers that be. So do blogs, YouTube, and other sites that let you provide content.
It becomes even more powerful when you realise that your audience can now come together in public forum and talk about their real opinions of you. Scary thought, isn’t it?
Maybe, until you figure out the solution: be human.
What does being human mean, exactly?
Well, think back to those things that millennial crave: authenticity and genuine relationships.
How exactly does that translate to your marketing as a brand? You need to be transparent and relatable.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, there are three things you need to do in order to achieve this: tell a story, be humble, and be relevant.
- Telling stories is a fundamental human activity that permeates most of our experiences. It’s also the most effective way of engaging the human brain and making it retain information.
- Being humble means stepping back from tooting your own horn all the time. Yes, your product is great. But so is everyone else’s. And honestly, no one likes a show-off.
- Last but not the least: being relevant means providing something of value to your consumer. Do you sell pots and pans? Don’t tell me how great you are. Teach me how to make a quick and delicious dinner for when I come home late from work.
Being human, to say the least, turns the old marketing model on its head. It’s hard to adjust if you’re used to the old ways, but it’s an investment you have to make if you want to survive in these tough times.