Celebrity = Overpriced Mannequins
Millennials recognize the visibility that many celebrities can bring to a brand, but feel that companies are foolish to forge formal relationships with celebrities. Why? The average Milllennial cannot identify with the average pop celebrity.
Direct Endorsement is Taboo
While unsolicited publicity (like spotting Scarlett Johansson wearing TOMS shoes) is seen as acceptable, Millennials view the usage of celebrities directly in advertisements as taboo. *It feels forced, fake and totally inauthentic. **In the virtual companies conducted in both London and Seattle for this study, both groups opposed giving celebrities’ paid endorsements but recognized their pop image value.
“If the paparazzi were to catch Victoria Beckham in our clothes I would be completely fine with that– she’s the kind of person that we want in our clothes. But to actually come out and advertise using her as a model would only alienate our audience.”
–Becky, London, age 25
Role Models Fall Flat
Charles Barkley got it right nearly 20 years ago when he said, “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” In a world where celebrities’ character flaws and mistakes surface on a daily basis, even the most seemingly safe endorsers falter. Most recently, Tiger Woods left a roster of big name brands scrambling after his world came tumbling down. Some of the world’s most prolific brands couldn’t have predicted his public demise. His fall from marketers’ grace clearly outlines that no celebrity is safe from potential scorn, scandals or misfortune. Millennials recognize this and will avoid it when leading their own companies.
While celebrities fail to connect with Millennials, the characters they play fare significantly better. This is due to the fact that the relationship Millennials have with a celebrity is really with the character that he or she plays. Often times those celebrities’ personal personas bear little to no resemblance. This is evident in the success of Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy Shorts he did for Priceline and Burger King where Millennial-created and shared pop culture memes and characters were used to convey the thought of the advertisement effectively. Characters from TV shows like Flight of the Concords (HP), MacGruber (Pepsi), and NBC’s Community (TurboTax) have recently been used in advertisements portraying the character they play on TV, rather than themselves. The connection that Millennials have with characters also reveals why YouTube and other smaller stars now often resonate with this audience more than a multi-millionaire professional entertainer.
Interaction Keys Connection
Not surprisingly, a generation that innately consumes, creates and participates in media is easily turned off by one-way communications and brands that don’t deeply interact with them.
Commercials Don’t Convert
Millennials view most commercials as simple notifications, superficial media for watching without any real engagement. Commercials help them remember that a brand or product still exists but won’t necessarily drive them to buy. In fact, only 17.7% of Millennials agree that their favorite TV spot led them to purchase the advertised product. These lackluster results combined with the fact that most ads are fast-forwarded or ignored prove that Millennials are hard to sway using traditional media that doesn’t promote interaction.
Inclusion Builds Efficacy
Not all marketing and advertisements are viewed as ineffective by Millennials though. To be effective, campaigns need to invite Millennials into the process and allow them to get involved with the brand on a deeper level. User-Generated Ads, Facebook Brand Pages, Twitter and a host of new technologies have opened up doors for Millennials to have dialogues with brands. Millennials now expect to be able to interact with companies to participate and promote the products and brands they are passionate about and they’re not turning back. Even typically one-way communication like commercials are expected to engage and invite vs. push and persuade.
Millennials live in a 360 degree world where media bleeds together seamlessly. They don’t see digital, print and TV as distinct individual channels separated from their physical lives. As lines continue to blur, content is becoming more and more pervasive, and mobile. The best recent example of this fusion is the iPad, an all-in-one print, digital and video experience often used outside of the home.
Because they’ve grown up in such a digital world, Millennials value tangible experiences to make a genuine connection with products and brands. **Successful companies will learn that 360 does not mean utilizing every channel, but requires creating a plan that merges and connects with Millennials fluidly at several life touch points. Nike+ is a great example of a platform that combines a device, community and digital resources together with products to add true value to runners’ lives.
Peer-to-Peer Drives Influence
Millennials’ distrust in advertising and dismissal of typical ad noise make impacting their behavior through commercial messages increasingly difficult. Peers remain as the one reliable source to break through and influence this over-stimulated generation.
Word-of-Mouth Trusted to Inform
Millennials innately distrust commercials and understand that many brands will often say anything in an attempt to win their wallets. At the same time, there have never been more resources to research product choices thanks to friends on Facebook, a global online community via Twitter, peer product reviews or a host of other tools. Millennials realize that every commercial claim can be easily investigated before making a purchase and they will utilize all available tools in order to do so. Not surprisingly, word-of-mouth was the #1 preferred place to receive news and information about products, with nearly as many Millennials preferring it (43%) to TV (26%) and Web Pages (22%) combined.*
Peers Deliver Relevance
Not only does WOM give Millennials a method to validate claims, but it also enables them to learn about products and services from peers who can lend perspective and relevance. Whether looking for novels for their book club, parenting information from a young parents message board or a new set of skis from their Facebook Ski Group, Millennials have easily accessible resources to learn about purchases from people who best understand their needs. Likewise, Millennials proactively seek to tell others about products they love and do so effectively as they share information about the product in a way that matters to them as individuals, not through mass marketing messaging.
Recommendations Drive Behavior
The trust and relevance Millennials have with peer-to-peer communications, and the outlets Millennials have for communicating through them, makes peer recommendations a hot commodity in marketing any product. While TV can still give a lot of ground cover and drive awareness for brands, it is word-of-mouth recommendations that have the greatest influence over purchasing behavior.**
“The reason why Apple marketing is widely successful is because it merges giving an overview of the product in a compelling manner with constant reminders that it exists through press releases around the hype that the product has produced (e.g. the wait lines for stores to open). This combination creates an ‘event’ – only open for a certain amount of time which drives the desire to get involved and become part of a larger group.”
– Gordana, London, age 26