Marketing to Millennials: 4 Tips for Your Brand

It’s hard to believe how drastically social networks like Facebook have evolved since their debut. I’m dating myself here, but, when I first created an account on Facebook, it was only designed for college students. In fact, not every college or university was even involved at that time. We all know how the network has transformed itself to include multiple generations today. However, as the demographic gets “grayer,” the youngsters are less involved.

According to eMarketer, the 65+ demographic will increase more than any other demographic on Facebook through 2016. Interestingly, as this trend happens, the 18-24 crowd will decrease on Facebook. Intriguing data, huh? This chart from Sprout Social shares even more insights into Facebook’s demographics:

Sprout Social Chart

What’s happening is the Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y, is getting their social media desires filled on other networks. Pew Research defines this age group as the 18-34 group. Some of this shift is probably due to the fact that their parents and grandparents haven’t made it to these new channels yet.

Still, these trends pose quite the challenge for marketers, especially since activities of the upper and lower ends of the millennial group are likely very different. Some marketers may think they’re in the clear and that they don’t need to reach this crowd since their products and services are for older age groups. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but in a few years, this millennial crowd will be your target audience, so it’s important to do your homework and be ready to capitalize when the time is right. Otherwise, negativity could be associated with your brand leaving you with even bigger problems.

It’s a competitive game, but connection and engagement are possible. The following tips should help:

1. Think before You Speak

A prominent characteristic of the millennial crowd is its strong ability to be heard. For the past ten years or so, we’ve been hearing how blogs, forums, and social networks are outlets for ALL voices. Marketers have embraced and encouraged a two-way communication channel in order to engage, gather feedback, and ultimately, be better marketers.

But, these voices mean that we, as marketers, have to be on our A game. Hasty doesn’t work. Somewhat relevant content will not do you any favors. And complete misses will be damaging. These reasons are why it is of the utmost importance to take a breath and think through what you’re posting before you hit “Enter.” This doesn’t mean that you can’t piggyback on a relevant newsy trend, but it does mean that you have to apply smart marketing. If you don’t, the voices could come back to haunt you.

2. Don’t Be a Friend Instead of a Parent

Who remembers a parent in school that tried too hard to be a friend? It doesn’t work, does it? You can be a cool parent without crossing over that line. The same logic applies to brands connecting with the millennial crowd on social media. Don’t be the brand that uses “wicked” methodologies to try to connect with your audience, because it won’t work.

A brand can be relevant and current without forcing it. By being true to your brand, you show credibility and consistency. If you do this, the lingo and pop culture reference will happen naturally.

3. Be Short, Sweet, and to the Point

Do you ever wish for a simpler life? I’ll admit that I do. Unfortunately, for the majority, life has us on the fast track. In other words, you have very little time, if any, beyond fulfilling your needs and maybe dabbling into your wants. This means that, even when you have a minute to play on social media, you don’t want to take the time to read a paragraph from a brand or watch a 10-minute video. You want something quick and easy to digest that provides a solution, answers a question, or that is just helpful information.

This is where marketing skills really come into play. If you have a lot of information to share, tease it. Give your audience a reason to dig further, which is what you want anyway.

4. Don’t Lump Millennials Together

This is a serious mistake that marketers tend to make since the millennial age group covers quite the range of ages. At the lower end, this group includes people still college. And at the upper end, it could include people who are married, with children, and with a decade+ experience in their careers. Simply put, you need more in your toolbox than just emojis.

It requires you to do market research and segment within this audience. There will be times that there will be crossover, which will make your job a little easier, but often, the content will need to vary and be customized per segment.

In summary, marketing with social media channels was never easy, but it has definitely gotten more challenging as society, businesses and consumers have evolved. Today, consumers, especially millennials, are complex. Yes, this means marketing is tough, really tough. But, it’s not impossible. Brands like Ford, Pepsi, Doritos and more are doing it wonderfully.

If you think about this evolution, that many of us marketers advocated by the way, the expectations of millennials are not surprising. Millennials want more than a logo, they want human elements, and they want to be part of your brand experience. Isn’t this what marketers preach all the time? Sounds like we need to step up our game to practice what we preach.

The Creative Culture of SugarSpun Marketing (Infographic)

Cover Image_BLOG-01

Work culture has been a hot topic lately, from the Amazon article in the New York Times released last week to one of the founders of Facebook Dustin Moskovitz’s response. Each business evolves its own work culture and employees contribute based on his or her own personality and habits. We here at SugarSpun went about deliberately choosing people that would build a work culture that is…shall we say…significantly different than Amazon’s pressure-cooker atmosphere. As quoted in the New York Times article, “Amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.” By deliberate design, our creative chaos is big on achieving but also big on work-life balance. And we believe that giving rein to our creativity is one way to achieve that. Take a look!

___bigger version-01

The Best Way To Use Colors in Marketing (Infographic)

for blog cover-01What do colors really mean? Did you know they could actually play to your emotions? What’s more, they can even make you hungry! This is why they are critical to marketers. Businesses take careful consideration when designing their logos, websites and other marketing materials. Check out this infographic we put together to gain a better understanding of the depth of colors and the impact they have on marketing efforts.

Color Psych

Building a Powerful Voice for Your Brand

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. – Maya Angelou

How true is this? Words are powerful, but the real influence comes from the voice carrying them. From a business perspective, this could not hit closer to home. And, from a social media angle, it hits the nail on the head.

Words need to be brought to life. In my college days, I remember a speech professor explaining the many different ways to say “I love you” and how differently each example sounded. The inflection, the pitch and the tone all played an integral role in the response and/or reaction.

Interestingly enough, the same elements apply to online marketing. The tone that you set for your brand carries the same weight that an external voice has. For instance, the voice that only pushes out links across social media has a robotic voice associated with it and is rarely heard. On the contrary, the brand voice that pushes out a variety of content with mixed media shows personality and spunk and is much more likely to resonate with users.

One of the best and most effective ways to build a strong voice online is through blogging. According to Hubspot, businesses that blog perform better on multiple levels:

  • Blog frequency impacts customer acquisition. 92% of companies who blogged multiple times a day acquired a customer through their blog. (HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
  • The global population of blog readers keeps growing. (eMarketer, August 2010)
  • 81% of marketers rated their blog as useful or better. (HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
  • There are 31% more bloggers today than there were three years ago. (eMarketer, August 2010)
  • 46% of people read blogs more than once a day. (HubSpot Science of Blogging 2010)
  • Most people read 5-10 blogs. (HubSpot Science of Blogging, 2010)
  • Nearly 40% of US companies use blogs for marketing purposes. (eMarketer, August 2010)

In addition, blogging fuels search engines. Google loves good content and will reward those who provide it. Blogging also gives a brand personality. Similar to social media, blogs also give brands the opportunity to appear more human. There is so much you can do with a blog such as to insert multiple personalities. A blog doesn’t have to have a single author. It could have many authors encompassing all levels of the business that share the many aspects of what you do.

Another excellent way to let your voice be heard is by listening. We say this so often, but it never gets any less significant. The whole purpose behind this voice you want to build is to produce two-way communication with your audience. No one likes a one-sided conversation, right? This turns anyone off, which is why listening plays such a vital role in being heard. A brand must listen to know what their audience is saying, how to differentiate themselves among their competitors, and understand user expectations.

Look at brands and “listen” to those who are doing it right. If a corporate brand like Taco Bell or Sephora can engage with individuals, small to medium-sized businesses should be able to as well.

Sephora Twitter PostsTaco Bell TweetsWe also spoke recently about how listening goes hand-in-hand in tackling and combatting reputation management issues. The bottom line is in order to be an effective communicator that has any voice, listening must be in your toolbox.

Thirdly, as you establish your voice, you must be consistent. Building this voice through your website, social media and other online channels is just half the battle. It’s not a one-time initiative. It’s a continuous effort that you must not neglect. A brand can never turn on the cruise control, unfortunately. You work hard to establish a voice, but it takes work to maintain and grow it. The stronger voice you build, the more on your toes you need to be because results will be rolling in.

If you’re not consistent, you’ll lose your edge, and most importantly, your audience. When researching, I often come across sites that have not updated their blogs in months and some years. Audiences and search engines pay attention to this.

As you build your voice, set a standard. It’s okay to have some boundaries, but if you let it go, you’ll have to start from scratch. And everyone knows the comeback is always harder the second time around since competition grows and search engines get smarter.

A brand voice is a powerful tool, if used right. There are lots of messages already being told, so to be heard, you must get out there and tell yours effectively.

 

Reputation Management: It’s All About The Response

When you’re annoyed, where do you go? When you’re excited about something, where do you go? In the digital age, these destinations are, in many cases, some form of social media. And if you’re on the receiving end of this, the outcome could either be really positive or really negative. The latter, unfortunately, often results in long-term impact.

This is one of the many reasons why reputation management is so important. Crises that come with reputation management concerns are every company’s nightmare. While some crises occur regardless of how much you prepare, the real key is how you respond. It’s really just an extension of customer service.

How responsive is your brand online? Do you have a reputation management plan?

When people take to social media, they want to be heard. They want to get something good or bad off their chest. If it is something good, they want to have someone applaud and congratulate them. If it is something bad, they want sympathy or acknowledgement of how they’ve been wronged. This is when they often involve the brand.

What do you do when this happens to your brand? The truth is, it’s not easy, but maintaining and restoring your brand’s reputation is possible. For starters, even before a crisis happens or someone says something negative about your brand, you need to have to have a plan in place. An in-depth plan is great, but sometimes small businesses are pulled in so many different other directions that they don’t have the time for this. But, there are strategies such as having a generic statement prepared for crisis situations that even the smallest of businesses can do.

This way, when a reputation management issue arises, you can respond quickly and thoughtfully. We’re not saying that you have to respond within the minute or even 5 minutes of the outreach, but you shouldn’t let too much time slip by before you address it. You want your audience to feel important, and if too much time passes, they could feel belittled. It also depends on which platform the comment or question has appeared. If it’s Twitter, the response will need to come more quickly than on Facebook due to the real-time functionality of Twitter. According to SocialBakers, Twitter is actually where brands will most likely hear from their customers.

SocialBakers ChartHowever, even though responding in a timely fashion is imperative, you can’t be hasty. The response needs to be meaningful. You don’t want your customers to think that you have a troll pushing out automated responses. There needs to be depth and reason to your response. Now, it is acceptable to send a series of responses or take the conversation private through email or messages, but you want to always make sure the audience knows you care.

Secondly, it’s very important that brands respond with honesty and transparency. The process of branding is all about building a trusted name and reputation. So, if you have done this, you don’t want to blow all your hard work on not giving your customers what they want. There is nothing worse than feeling misled. You don’t always have to reveal all the details, but you do want customers to feel like they are getting the full story.

In 2012, NM Incite and Nielsen released a report on the state of social customer service. Among the findings, the report found the impact of one negative comment could counter up to five positive comments:

NM Incite Chart on Social Media

Remember Target’s massive credit card breach that occurred back in December? The retailer received a lot of backlash for withholding information during this time. After some of the initial buzz died down, in January, news came out that 70 million more customers were targeted by the breach. What’s more, as even more information has come out, Target recently said it declined to act early even though it knew. Do you think the retailer could have avoided some of this backlash had it been transparent? It’s very possible.

One of the best ways that reputation management issues can be resolved is through listening. What is the real concern? Having this understanding helps you better respond and address the issue. This also helps you to address issues early. Constant Contact posted the following quote on Facebook recently:

Constant Contact Quote

This is very true in regards to reputation management. Having this active presence and listening helps to provide both a human and personal touch to your brand. Beyond this, it sends the message that you care.

GM is another brand that is going through some of these issues currently. As you’ve probably heard, the automaker is experiencing the recall of 1.6 million cars that are linked to 12 deaths. However, GM is maintaining its social activity. Yes, there are negative comments and outcries that the company is addressing, but GM is still maintaining its social media strategy by promoting jobs, conducting contests, boasting new technology, and more to show that there is more to its name than the recall.

As unfortunate as it can be, missteps happen. But, brands can either break down as a result of opposition, or they can rise above it and move forward. It’s all about the response.

Display image courtesy of gottmanblog.com.

 

 

Boring Brands Can Succeed in Social Media Too

 

Person yawning

Social media has a sense of fun and excitement attached to it. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social tools are trendy and exhibit a unique energy unlike other marketing methodologies. Brands like Pepsi, Doritos, Dove, Taco Bell and others always seem to be embracing the latest phenomenon in a very successful way. For instance, Taco Bell introduced the return of its Beefy Crunch Taco on Snapchat.

Taco Bell Uses Snapchat

Dove is another brand that seems to never fail. I mean, has there been a Dove video that hasn’t gone viral?

So, what’s the deal? Is it that these brands have the coolest products that automatically mesh with social media? Well, it helps that they have cool products and very established brands, but the real secret is that they do an excellent job of marketing themselves.

Does this mean that boring, non-sexy brands can also be successful on social media? Absolutely. Yes, even contractors, feminine hygiene brands, office suppliers, plumbing businesses and others can be successful on social media too. It takes a little more effort, but it is possible.

Integrating humor is one of the first ways these not-so-cool brands can utilize social media. Many grandmothers make a habit of saying “laughter is the best medicine.” The same principle applies to somewhat difficult brands and social media. Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs is a perfect example of taking something that the majority of society would not view as either fun and exciting and making it into a hit show through humor. Even politicians recognize that poking fun at themselves is often the best way to respond to a circumstance.

Now, you obviously have to be careful with this approach. Humor can be effective in most situations within reason, but there are instances in which it just doesn’t work. A financial firm, for example, would have to be more cautious about poking fun of what they do than the local plumber. It’s all about context and your audience.

A second approach these challenged brands can take is to become problem solvers. Whatever your product or service is, the need exists in which consumers need what you offer. There is nothing glamorous about plumbing, but it’s a necessity. The same is true for garbage companies and countless other businesses that we all use regularly. They may not be viewed as cool, but we couldn’t live comfortably without them.

You can become a problem solver by sharing customer stories – even adding humor like mentioned above – answering common questions, capitalizing on events in which their services are needed most, and relating many other messages showcasing why you’re needed.

Thirdly, brands can go one step beyond the problem solver and become a resource for customers. By doing this, brands can keep in continuous dialogue with their customers. Blogs are perfect for this type of goal since it keeps consumers coming back for more not only when they need a product or service. Video is also another great avenue for this type of brand building. You can create how-to videos and also encourage customers to submit questions or issues via video. Images and infographics are additional ways for feeding information to consumers. It’s always recommended that brands try various forms of media to see which form resonates the best with the audience.

Lastly, brands that aren’t Apple and Mercedes and that struggle to be trendy, should be complimentary. In other words, as you communicate with your audience, your message should not be only about you and your products and services. It’s okay to tell your story and apply the above tips, but you must do more. We’ve said before, and we’ll continue to state it – social media is not about selling.

Now, sales are very often involved with social media strategy, but it cannot be the basis of your message. Brands, especially the ones that are considered boring, need to align themselves with other brands, products and services to be relevant to consumers. Take the time to think about their lifestyles and tailor content around it. This will let them you know you care, and it still ties the conversation back to your boring offering.

So, while dirt, sewage, hygiene and other non-sexy brands have a tough challenge on their hands, they can still be successful on social media platforms. WhoIsHostingThis.com put together a wonderful infographic depicting how some brands have risen above their challenges and embraced their boringness successfully across social media. It just takes creativity and strategy such as the above steps.

No one wants to be boring, so make yourself stand out.

Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset – Your Brand

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about branding? Is it a logo, culture, or what? For most consumers, a brand conveys a particular message such as an emotional feeling, or it drives a particular action such as motivation.

While marketers know how important a brand is, it’s often harder for other management to see its significance. However, according to Steve McKee, author and president of McKee Wallwork & Company, the brand is the most valuable asset a company owns. In his new book, Power Branding, he takes it even a step further and says that, unlike other assets such as machines, buildings and roofs, brands never depreciate.

Interesting perspective, isn’t’ it? Yes, it’s true that a brand can be damaged, but it doesn’t crumble over time as a result of weather. In a nutshell, companies need to view their brand and reputation as equals. For example, if you’re a trustworthy person, you have a trusted brand. Also, the local family-owned pharmacy that’s been supplying the community with medicinal needs for the past 50 years likely has a trusted reputation. It may have switched owners, but the store’s reputation hasn’t changed.

How does a company build this kind of brand? For one, it doesn’t happen overnight. But, it starts with asking a number of questions:

–          Does your branding match your products and services?

–          How important is your company’s name?

–          Are you listening to your customers?

–          Do your branding decisions align with your business goals?

–          Can your customers find you?

–          Are you accessible?

–          Is your marketing message consistent?

As you contemplate these questions, understand that good branding is more than a sell or service transaction. Your brand is what people, including clients, remember about you. What do you want to be known for? Do these areas match? If not, you have work to do.

Develop a brand voice

If you’re not where you want to be, then start communicating toward your new goal. This means that all communication whether written or verbal convey the language you want to send out. The same idea also goes for imagery. For instance, if you’re going for a young, hip vibe and your logo contains an old-school clock, you probably need to do a revamp. Your logo is typically the face of your brand and often sets the stage for everything else. If it’s not right, then it may stop customers before even getting to your tagline.

As you develop this voice, be careful to be consistent across the board with the appearance of employees, business, and even email signatures – it all plays a role in shaping your company’s overall brand.

Promote your brand

When you first hear or see the word promotion, most people automatically think an advertisement investment. But, that isn’t necessarily what this means. Once you develop your voice, you have to distribute it. Enable your staff to be brand advocates. Keep them educated and informed, so that they can interact as and with this voice effectively.

Be active across your social media channels and on your website with this voice. If budget allows, promoted posts can only help your cause. The important thing, however, is just making sure your audience knows it’s you and can hear this voice.

Keep your brand’s momentum going strong

Now that you’re out there with this reputation, you have to live up to it. Consistency is key. If you’re going for safety if you’re a contractor or credibility if you’re a bank, you’d better make sure that you always live up to the highest standard. The promotions may only last a week or a month, but you will always be in the spotlight in terms of your customers and potential customers. You want this brand to stick. The good news is the longer you strive to meet these expectations, the stronger it becomes. It is then that the brand turns into one of those assets that doesn’t depreciate.

Display image courtesy of 1to1media.com.

 

Why the Buzz around Content Marketing Matters

 

Editing Content

“Content marketing” has become quite the buzz phrase in recent years. Why is this? Is it just hype, or is there really something to it?

To be honest, there are a couple things going on with content marketing. One is that it’s not a new idea. The concept has been around for quite some time, but companies have only recently realized its value. Two is that some of the buzz around it is merely hype because the term is often misused. For instance, it is often confused with social media marketing. While the two work hand in hand and while there is some cross over in what they each do, the distinction is that a content marketing strategy needs to come before a social media strategy.

Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, and who has written 3 books on the subject defines content marketing as:

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

In a nutshell, content marketing is designed to be a soft sell to customers. Instead of pushing promotional items that they don’t really care about, content marketing adds value. If you, as a business, consistently provide information, FAQs, news, and more that is relevant to your audience, you are delivering content marketing. By doing this, you are giving your customers a reason to continually come to you.

In case you haven’t noticed, traditional advertising is not as effective as it once was. In the digital age of two-way communication, consumers have learned to turn a blind eye to it. Their expectations are high, and in order to reach and connect with them, you must add value.

Where does social media fit into the picture? For starters, social media serves as an incredible distribution channel. Whenever you publish content, you have the opportunity to tease and send your message out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and the list goes on and on. The great thing about social media is that you can serve your audience content based on their preference. So, for instance, if your customers are very visual, Pinterest or Instagram may be the best options for you to connect with them. If they prefer video, utilize YouTube. This is not a one-size-fits-all game – it’s completely customizable, which is the beauty of it.

Does it make sense now? Content marketing would not have the buzz that it has without the integration of social media. And on the social side, the content would be less than valuable if there was no strategy behind it.

But, as great as content marketing is, there are some stipulations. First and foremost, your content must be good. It seems basic enough, right? But, sadly, there are many companies that are fooling themselves into thinking they have a content marketing strategy when they really do not. In other words, if you are simply putting out promotional materials via social media channels, understand that this is NOT content marketing.

You have to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Do you care about something that only boasts the company such as an award? While it is a great feat, this is not something that adds value to customers. You also have to become an authority. You and your business will be respected more if you speak with authority. And in all honesty, you are the expert. Show off your knowledge to your audience and be confident in it. This is your time to shine, so showcase it.

You also must ditch corporate voice. As much as businesses want it to work, it doesn’t, especially not on social media. You have to speak the same language as your audience. Show that you are passionate about what you do. In today’s world, pretense is lost. Honesty and realism are appreciated.

It’s definitely a different way of thinking but there are brands that are getting it. In a recent post from Econsultancy, Ben Davis highlighted some companies including Red Bull and Louis Vuitton that are doing content marketing right. These companies are taking themselves out of the spotlight and are focusing on what their customers care about. What’s more, they have set the bar high for their competitors as well as other companies that are new to content marketing.

The overarching idea behind content marketing is that by constantly being in front of your audience, when they have a need or a want, they will come to you without a second thought. Why would they go somewhere else? You have enabled them to become smarter and more efficient at what they do by being a reliable resource for them. In turn, they will naturally become loyal, which is a win-win.

Display image courtesy of UndeniableTruth.com.