Millennials sometimes get a bad rap for being lazy, entitled, and immature. In many cases this is a matter of perception, and in some, it’s spot on. On the flip side, we are diverse, independent and dream big. millennials are about one-quarter of the population and represent $200 billion in annual buying power, making the group a major audience for many brands. What’s more, in 2015, millennials will be the largest generation in the workforce, thus a valuable B2B target. While millennials are a generation with diverse personalities and ambitions, they have a few things in common, especially their interaction with brands.
Namely, they identify with brands more personally and emotionally than older generations, according to a survey by the Boston Consulting Group. They like content to find them and also value a consistent brand experience across channels. In fact, the 2014 SDL Customer Experience Research Report shows that 64% of millennials are more likely to share information with a company if they get a similar feeling in the brand’s store, website or social media platforms.
Brand personality and cause-related campaigns also drive millennial affinity. They view brands as extensions of their own values and status, and so are drawn to those emphasizing customization and community. Millennials are less susceptible to traditional marketing, relying primarily on personal networks and the Internet for insights and updates on a brand or its products.
Who better to help create concepts that will influence this hard-to-reach target than the millennials on your team? They offer first-hand knowledge about how and where they want to be reached, which messages speak to them, and provide feedback on existing ideas and campaigns. Their expertise with online and social platforms and how they interact with brands on those programs is another valuable insight they can provide.
Agencies that recognize this and embrace the strengths of their millennial team members are seeing a positive effect on the creative process.
There are plenty of traditional ways to harness this creativity, including focus groups (with millennial staff members, external parties, or a mixture), online surveys and one-on-one interviews. Millennials also like to get creative about getting creative, however. Below are out-of-the-box ideas to help harness millennial creativity to spark ideas and inspire new PR campaigns.
• In the beginning. Consult everyone at the beginning of the RFP process. Many new business teams are senior-heavy and only tap into their millennial team members when seeking a specific tactic, “social idea” or feedback on an existing concept. Bringing millenials into the conversation at the start not only will instill a sense of ownership in the project, but will provide valuable insight and help infuse fresh thinking into a group that likely churns out multiple proposals and plans each month. Buy-in can be as simple as inviting millennial staff members to brainstorm or soliciting their thoughts via email.
• Kick off brainstorming with an ice breaker. This creates a clean slate and switches millennials’ minds from their current workload to the topic of discussion.
While this is a chance to get creative and clear everyone’s mind, oftentimes things said during the ice breaker are catalysts for developing some of the best ideas that emerge from the brainstorm.
It also helps if the ice breaker is relevant to the industry or brand to be discussed. Some examples include: playing word association exercises, developing fictional brands and taglines, predicting future gadgets, planning creative scenarios, and storytelling.
• Consider a job swap. This Freaky Friday-esque exercise bolsters creativity from both the PR manager and his/her millennial counterparts. Giving both sides a fresh perspective can inspire new thinking.
The millennial junior staff member is given the opportunity to see the account from a high level, while the manager experiences the more tactical side of daily work, giving both sides a new way of looking at the same brand. Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery to help spark ideas.
• Tap into their social media obsession. Some creative epiphanies occur outside business hours. This works in favor of millennials, who always are connected, checking Facebook and Twitter multiple times daily. Many even rely on social media to interact with brands.
• Foster an entrepreneurial culture. This is more of a long-term process, but creating an entrepreneurial culture at your agency can have huge repercussions for harnessing creative mindsets from millennials and all staff members. When millennials know that their ideas are encouraged and well received (and can become reality), it creates a more open culture that fosters overall creative and collaborative thinking.
For example, Peppercomm’s Innovation Mill was born out of one team member’s interest and belief in the need for innovation. The idea was shared with key members of the management team and the necessary resources were allocated to make it a reality. It’s now one of the agency’s most widely read content hubs.
Despite many of their junior- to mid-level statuses within PR agencies, millennials are a valuable resource when tapped effectively, especially when it comes to creative thinking and idea generation.
By understanding the drivers behind millennials’ decisions and loyalty to brands, not only can PR managers develop impactful campaigns to target this market, they can also harness their fresh thinking.
The combination of millennial creativity, preferences, social media experience and new ideas with PR managers’ creativity, experience and expertise can be a recipe for success (and, let’s hope, more than a few new client wins).
Sidebar: Inclusive Culture Yields Success
A recent Peppercomm win can be attributed to the collaborative and creative mindsets of management and millennials. In vying for the business of an international automobile manufacturer, we incorporated different rounds of creative consulting and brand experiences from all levels within the agency before drafting a single word of the proposal.
As part of thde process, we intentionally grouped people together who do not typically work together daily so as to spark creative thinking, idea chemistry and an expansion of our horizons.
We covered the walls of our meeting rooms with a variety of visuals designed to provide context but also to elicit additional inspiration during the brainstorms. The visuals ranged from the brand’s existing marketing collateral to photos of celebrities and competing brands. This gave us an idea of how the company saw itself and provided material for initial reactions during the sessions. The visuals served as ice breakers, but other warm-ups included word association exercises and discussions of the brand’s quirky anecdotes. We also referenced social media platforms to explore how consumers were interacting with the brand and to understand millennials’ thoughts on its effectiveness.
A key takeaway was that we realized the two organizations had similar cultures. Like Peppercomm, the automobile manufacturer embraces an entrepreneurial and open culture. Recognizing the cultural similarities led us to showcase ours in everything we did for the automaker, from the written proposal to our final presentation. The cultures combined with our collaborative ideas ultimately have led to a successful business relationship. —N.H.
Nicole Hall, firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared in the December 22, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.