Since the Mad Men era, the key to successful marketing in any visual medium has been a message that’s deemed “sexy” by society. More powerful than the physical, the “sex” in this context is often a seductive, soothing image that encourages the viewer’s eyes to linger and eventually (hopefully) drives him or her further down the path to purchase.
Fifty years later, that kind of sex appeal has shifted to digital. Technology has replaced television for millennials, and social media is now the language of love. Their sweet nothings are acronyms: LOL! Well on their way to defining the marketplace, millennials have money, too. What they don’t have is an urgency to purchase; they are too busy posting selfies and details about their minute-to-minute activities.
A recent article in Advertising Age says that marketers should no longer look at the 85 million American millennials aged 15 to 34 as “one big generation,” however. Citing The Millennial Disconnect, a report from media network Carat and the Dentsu Aegis Network, the article defines four subsets of millennials: impulse-driven, fashionable “Trend-Netters” (42 percent of the demographic), “Alter-Natives,” who skew younger and are more concerned about personal privacy (23 percent); ambitious “Lifepreneurs,” who set their gadgets aside in search of work/life balance (19 percent); and “BetaBlazers,” who use digital technology to be more worldly and adventurous (16 percent).
The challenge for brands and marketing executives is to create assets that will reach different segments of this target audience five to seven times in order for them to transact. In other words, we have to make something sexy seven times before millennials will pull the figurative trigger.
Pope John Paul II once spoke of the evil use of advertising techniques that promised immediate satisfaction of every desire and promoted a natural inclination to avoid hard work. If he were alive today, he might complain that social media has taken those same tools of immediate gratification and instant fulfillment to the masses.
Psychologically speaking, the draw of social media parallels the tenets of traditional direct response calls to action. But it creates a challenge for the current DR landscape: Social media can support a brand, but it doesn’t necessarily provide conversions. And in seeking to monetize, that’s something that social media powerhouses such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are looking to change by creating ways to purchase products through their platforms.
By associating the “eroticism of immediacy”—that sense of urgency and excitement that encourages fast action—with social media, brands can manage their target markets and optimize lead generation. Social media can provide the lead to a sale, if not always the sale itself.
Attribution is fuzzy, though, and the metrics for determining where to put marketing dollars are difficult to parse. Forecasting tools are critical to the success of any social media tactic, just as implementing a clear analysis of consumer insights drives brand messaging.
A strong social footprint can lend momentum to branding efforts. The key is to execute an integrated marketing strategy that measures the effectiveness of different messages and channels while driving continuous improvement in operational efficiencies and attribution.
Testing is crucial to the success of social media strategies. Marketers also must retarget aggressively and win opt-in for their social media efforts, always with the goal of engagement in mind. Social media’s immediacy makes it more intimate to the user, and marketers can leverage that intimacy into a real connection. It’s that touch of sexy savior faire that may make the difference to millennial consumers.
Lori Zeller is Managing Partner of THOR Associates, a multichannel marketing agency.
The above blog post was published originally in the March-April 2016 issue of ER magazine.