Working in marketing I hear the challenges of reaching millennials all too often. But I have to be honest, we're more accessible than we have ever been. The job of marketers and brands trying to connect with millennials is to get our attention and create a meaningful interaction that keeps us coming back.
The greatest challenge that outdoor companies face with millennials is accessibility. Not everyone is aiming to reach the apex of their outdoor physical achievements. We don't all have the know how, or the tools to do that, but we definitely love to get out there and try. To us, the outdoors is as much as a social experience as social media. Its a break from our phones, computers and jobs with a chance to reconnect with our friends and be part of a community. (I mean, we'll probably Instagram about it because it didn't happen if there weren't pictures,) but why aren't outdoor companies taking advantage of that? Outdoor companies seem to miss the mark when it comes to engaging millennials and there is a huge opportunity to change that.
I've put together a few tips to help the outdoor industry connect with millennials.
1. Keep it simple and accessible
Millennials need brands to be accessible for them. They want to feel like they don't need the gear to explore the outdoors, but want it to enhance their experience. Let them know they don't have to be next-level athletes or seasoned campers to enjoy it. Create content that is easy for millennials to digest but inspires them to engage in conversation or interaction with your product.
Micheal Roberts gave a great example of brand accessibility in his blog for Outdoor Online Poler, and has been hailed for its vintage aesthetic. He bills it as a company that makes gear “for people that wonder why everyone is trying to pretend they are going to do first ascents on alpine peaks.” Five-year-old San Francisco brand Alite Designs' tagline is "Outside Made Simple." Its bestselling products include camp chairs and colorfully printed picnic blankets. You can even rent introductory kits of camping essentials at its San Francisco store. Whereas traditional brands have ambassador teams made up of elite athletes, Alite, founded by Tae Kim, a former equipment-design director at the North Face, promotes the stories of urban professionals who make time for microadventures on a relatable scale.
2. Speak their language
Millennials just want to feel like brands understand them. It gets old hearing how we are so hard to reach-just talk to us! You have to feel relatable and authentic. Don't "market to millennials"--start a conversation and create content we are interested in reading, watching, and sharing.
Adweek wrote a great article on things you shouldn't say to millennials, please abide....
Netflix does a great job with their content. Whether it be creating gifs from their featured programs, using emojis, current expressions or subtly commenting on trends, they have their social media strategy down pat.
3. Consider your crowd sourced content
Yeah that sounds like a strange idea, but research shows (according to bazaarvoice.com) that 84% of milllennials consider user generated content before buying a product. Do you have product reviews on your site? Do you have a lot of them? Encourage buyers to share their opinions. Check out what people are saying about you on social media or not saying and find a way to encourage the feed back and start a conversation.
4. Develop the personality of your brand and use it to your advantage
Millennials live out their lives in a digital world and want to represent brands that reflect their individual selves. Lead with conversation starters because once millennials feel connected to your brand they will represent it as an extension of themselves. They want to feel like your company is accessible, that they have a relationship with your brand, and that your company is representing a certain level of truth and authenticity. Not to mention if your brand has a unique personality it's differentiating you from other brands. Creating stories that can connect with millennials is the best way to increase engagement.
Android created one of the most shared videos of 2015 and frankly I just love the messaging for this campaign, "Be together, not the same". It really speaks to the individuality that millennials want to express (and who doesn't love viral videos of odd animal pairings.)
5. Be traditionally non-traditional
Doing the same thing over and over is going to drive millennials away. We've got attention spans shorter than that of a gold fish (its sad but true.) So whatever you're doing, keep it brief but keep it engaging. Know how to use each social media platform to you're advantage. Don't repeat the same thing on every platform because each platform is going to attract different users. While your at it, millennials love humor and just down right ridiculousness.
So here's where I talk about Old Spice. Not only is their strategy non-traditional but their messaging is definitely non-traditional. They are creating media that is hilarious, shareable, and memorable. Also can we note that Old Spice used to be a brand millennials considered as one for their grandfathers and fathers, but since the introduction of "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" they've been steadily gaining millennial love. Their 2014 campaign "The Mom Song" was creepy, funny, and incredibly viral gaining 1 Million views in just 3 days.
Here's one of their newest viral videos that I can't stop laughing at, I have major writer-envy.
So what's the major take away for outdoor companies? Please start making yourselves accessible. Talk about the many stories and experiences behind your brand. That will create a lot more value for your products than telling us we need that $400 parka to go play outdoors. Its time for outdoor companies to create funny and relatable content that speaks to the millennial generation. We want to connect with that feeling of getting your boots dirty, getting exercise, and getting some fresh air.