The whole concept of marketing to Millennials seems to escape most companies. While consumers have changed, promotional efforts have not necessarily kept pace. The days of casting a wide net and scooping up every wallet in its wake are over. Today’s marketing requires more precise targeting, social responsibility, and above all, authenticity.
These rules apply to restaurant marketing just as much as they do to mega-corporations. Earning Millennials’ patronage is a hands-on process that requires genuine interaction rather than flash. To borrow a food metaphor -- you need the steak, not the sizzle. The reward for all this grunt work, however, is the greater brand loyalty shared by Millennials.
But again, you need to earn that loyalty.
Know the Millennial Basics
Now, if there’s one thing that Millennials despise, it’s being treated as a monolith. We are a generation of individuals if nothing else. With that said, there are a few nearly universal truths about Millennials. We have cut the cord, relying less on cable TV for our entertainment and more on streaming services and internet providers. With 85% of Millennials owning a smartphone, 78% owning computers, and 50% owning tablets, the ability to have our shows, music, and movies readily available across all platforms is vital.
The same is true for our work lives; I wrote this piece at home on a laptop and on my phone at my kids’ karate classes.
This illustrates the need for you to cross-promote as widely as you can. If you can only find your outreach in one area, you may end up missing a massive segment of the Millennial population. You need to hit every platform possible; Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the bare minimum now, with YouTube and Snapchat also becoming viable avenues for promotion.
Millennials are Social Creatures
When using social media, the use of influencers is crucial. 84% of Millennials are weary of traditional advertisements, even when presented in these new formats. By incorporating influencers, however, you can reach the 58% of Millennials that are amenable to marketing that way.
It boils down to a personal connection. A standard commercial with paid extras enjoying burgers and beers while silently laughing amongst themselves feels manufactured -- because it is. The spot was likely focus grouped to death by ad reps that may have never set foot in the establishment they’re promoting. It’s safe, sanitary, and likely has absolutely nothing to do with its target audience.
On the other hand, a quick mention in a YouTube video, a five-second plug in a podcast, or an Instagram check-in and hashtag can accomplish what that 30-second commercial could not -- when coming from the right source. Many people despise the term influencer, but for better or worse, they are content creators, and they have the following and trust of swaths of consumers. The audience is no less aware that they’re being sold something, but when it comes from a voice they know, they are receptive to the message.
Millennials Care About Values Over Products
Of course, the message itself is just as important as the delivery. Key values like community, responsibility, and trustworthiness are the ideals that you should build your brand around to reach Millennials.
Now, influencers are not just the Kylie Jenners and Ariana Grandes of the world. Undoubtedly there are local bloggers in your area whose opinions can carry a great deal of clout. Blogs like Secret Boston and NYCGo are great sources of nightlife information for locals and visitors alike. Partnering with a like-minded Twitter or Instagram guru in your area can get more younger eyes on your efforts than old reliables like Zagat or Yelp.
You can also build community by reaching out directly to alumni groups, fan clubs, and other local organizations. Viewing parties, theme-nights, and loyalty incentives keep the same people in your building time after time, making your establishment feel like an engrained member of the neighborhood.
Eco-consciousness, conservation, and sustainability are nearly always on the forefront of the Millennial mind. We’re inheriting a planet in distress, and the struggle to find ethical consumption in a capitalist society weighs heavily on us. 87% of our generation prefers making purchases that further environmental or social justice causes.
Making the Change Can Be Hard
It’s not always easy (or profitable) to make those decisions in an industry that already suffers from razor-thin margins, but it can rewarding -- both to your bottom line and your conscience when done correctly. Simple tweaks like moving away from single-use plastics are attention grabbers. Bigger moves like in-house produce gardens and sourcing meats only from ethical, sustainable purveyors are longer-term efforts that will benefit your reputation and the world.
Now, bragging about these types of things can seem disingenuous or antithetical to the spirit of the decisions themselves, but the fact that you care about tomorrow just as much as today will earn you points with the Millennial crowd.
Finally, it comes back to honesty. Don’t try to be something you’re not. There are entire Internet communities dedicated to shaming the “How do you do, fellow kids?” marketing efforts of out-of-touch companies. Leave the spicy memes and hot Twitter takes alone. Growing up in the Internet era has gifted this generation with an inherent ability to cut through that kind of BS.
Simply push what you are and what you believe in, and you’ll see the rewards.