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Our 5 Biggest Pieces of Marketing Advice From 2013

As the 2013 winds to a close, we’ll be looking back at the year and rounding up some of the biggest shifts and trends we witnessed in the world of Milllennials, and what you should take away for 2014. Today, we’re listing our biggest advice on how to market to Millennials from the last 12 months:
1. Get Personal.
This one is so big we wrote about it twice. As social media has lifted the barriers between brand and consumer, making one-on-one conversations not just possible but expected, marketing has begun to shift to beyond-niche levels. Smart brands are targeting consumers on a personal level, making marketing into a customized, exclusive experience that feels like it is just for them. Think sending a customized product to just one person, sending care packages to 50 fans, or as WestJet recently did, fulfilling the wishes of just a handful of consumers. Marketing will have to become more customized to capture Millennial consumers’ attention. Brands that are shifting from broadcasting a mass-message to reaching out to small groups, and sometimes a single consumer, with a tailored experience are rising above the marketing melee in more ways than one. If done right (hint: with sincerity), this “audience of one” marketing can transform a brand experience from transactional to a relationship.
2. Don’t Take Yourself SeriouslySeriously.
Millennials have begun rejecting any attempted “public displays of perfection” as inauthentic. Those individuals and brands who take themselves too seriously, carefully guarding their “realness” behind a mask of flawlessness, may be doomed to be mocked and un-liked, while Millennials embrace self-effacing and imperfect personalities. We used the modern athlete endorsement as just one example: A serious shift has occurred since the age of Jordan and the athlete hero-on-a-pedestal. Millennials aren’t looking for hero athletes, but athletes who can joke, banter, and create irreverent material—even at their own expense. Successful athlete endorsements today, and those that resonate with Gen Y consumers, are those like LA Clippers player Blake Griffin’s Kia Optima spots. For this generation of sports stars, garnering fans is partially about being self-effacing, endearing themselves by not taking themselves seriously.
3. Embrace the Mushy Stuff.
Once upon a time, tear-jerk marketing was reserved for coffee commercials that aired at Christmas and AT&T spots that made moms cry in the ‘80s. But today, tissue box marketing has broken out of its narrow demo, and is being used by a wide range of brands to appeal to not just moms, but young consumers who are proving that when it comes to ads and content, they love the mushy stuff. Part of the allure of tissue box marketing and viral content for Millennials right now is that moment of catharsis. But the more powerful reason for the success of tissue box content is the doses of uplift and inspiration they provide. It’s the emotional boost of these videos that really captures them.
4. Tone Down the Testosterone For Millennial Men.
When Dr. Pepper marketed Dr. Pepper Ten in 2011, their reliance on a hyper-macho depiction of men, shooting lasers at each other and deriding all things girly, was of course condemned as sexist; but it also did not mesh with the kind of masculinity that Gen Y men have cultivated for themselves. The message did not ring true to a group accustomed to blending traditionally masculine concepts with their own current conventions (if not rejecting typical macho expectations completely). Some wondered if the machismo-reliant, no-girls-allowed approach would alienate women too much for Dr. Pepper Ten to be a success. But the real question should have been whether the portrayal of masculinity was the right tactic to take to capture the demographic the brand was clearly so desperate to attract: the Millennial male consumer. To capture an audience like this, they need to be in on the joke. Dr. Pepper’s 2013 campaign was much more successful by using a representation of manliness that Millennial men are much more comfortable with: tongue-in-cheek, nearly self-effacing, couched in retro-ism, and sprinkled with over-the-top, laughably surreal feats of manliness.
5. Toss the Kid GlovesMillennial Women Don’t Want Them.
We’ve come a long way (baby) since marketing to women was filled with code words and secret meanings. But somehow, traditional approaches in marketing to women persist in too many markets, and many brands have failed to understand how Millennial women want to be targeted. But how do Millennial women really want to be talked to? According to campaigns that have really gotten their attention, they want brands to take off their kid gloves and get honest. This summer, tampon delivery service Hello Flo gained massive attention for their commercial, which starred a little girl extremely proud to be the resident expert in all things period-related at her summer camp. She pronounces herself “Camp Gyno,” proudly distributing tampons, talking about “the red badge of honor” and teaching her camp mates about their anatomy. The spot got some massive praise for being “frank,” and was called “the best tampon ad in the history of the world.” Its reward for honestly and open-ness? Hello Flo’s “Camp Gyno” ad has over 6 million views on YouTube, and the brand reached a new level of awareness with young consumers in record time. For some brands, the departure from traditional, more guarded marketing may be difficult, but without changing the dialogue and catching up to the way Millennial women talk to each other, they’ll get left behind.