We’ve rounded up five campaigns from 2015 that didn’t just impress us, they truly engaged Millennials and teens.
It’s that time of year again—time for all of us to look back at the past 12 months and round up the lessons learned, and the tactics and trends that should be carried into 2016. The marketing of 2015 was a mixed bag, but there was plenty that brands should take away from the year. While it’s impossible for us to list out all of our favorites, we’ve looked back to find campaigns that innovated, impressed, and perhaps most importantly, actually worked. Here are five efforts that engaged young consumers the right way this year:
GEICO SKIPPABLE ADS
These days, when a brand announces their decision to target Millennials or teens, upping digital ad spending is usually a big part of their plan. But when we ask young consumers which type of advertising they usually ignore or avoid, 62% say online ads, like banner and video ads, and 68% say mobile in-app ads. In other words, online marketing—you’re doing it wrong. Banner ads & pre-roll as we know them could (and should) be a thing of the past as digital marketing evolves to adjust to young consumers’ attention spans, desire for control, and preference for moving images. This year, Geico’s new “Unskippable” pre-roll campaign adjusted to how young viewers generally approach ads on online video—acknowledging that they skip over online commercials as soon as they are able. The spots reward those that stick around, with a voiceover saying right away, “You can’t skip this Geico ad, because it’s already over.” The characters in the commercials then freeze, but for those who stick around to watch, the action on screen continues around them. Young viewers are given a reason to watch far beyond the time their finger usually hits the “skip” button. More brands are beginning to understand that traditional spots can’t just be copy and pasted into every platform that young consumers are on, and Geico is one of the big names leading the way in figuring out a new approach.
TACO BELL’S EMOJI BATTLE
More brands are creating emoji-centric marketing campaigns in order to appeal to Millennials and teens. From branded emoji keyboards to emoji activism efforts, the visual language is being embraced by retailers, publishers, and more. Soon after the Unicode Consortum announced they would be adding 37 new emojis to their library in 2015, Taco Bell began a quest to have a taco emoji created. In January, the chain created a Change.org petition that asked, “Why do pizza and hamburger lovers get an emoji but taco lovers don’t?” The brand positioned themselves as an emoji activist, and made the fight for the taco emoji a full-blown marketing campaign. After creating the petition, which they broadcasted on social media, they began to sell Taco Emoji tee shirts—which ironically don’t have a picture of the taco emoji—which it promoted with a #tacoemoji hashtag. When the taco emoji was announced, the brand launched campaigns to celebrate its creation, one tailored to Twitter, and another that was made for Instagram. Fans could tweet at the brand with the taco emoji and another random emoji of their choice to be sent back an image or GIF that mashes up the two in a creative way. Many brands are incorporating emojis into marketing, but Taco Bell took it to the next level, not just adding emojis into marketing and communications, but using them to engage. They turned their battle for the taco emoji into brand buzz, and put their brand at the center of a pop-culture conversation.
TARGET LOVES EVERY BODY
Last year, we included Target in our list of major marketing missteps of 2014 for their major Photoshop fail, which increased a swimsuit model’s “thigh gap” to proportions not possible in nature and made her skeletal skinny. But this year, the retailer made serious efforts to undo the damage: a body-positive and diverse bathing suit campaign that stars bloggers of all shapes and sizes. This year, the retailer took significant efforts to further undo the damage with a body-positive and diverse bathing suit campaign. “Target Loves Every Body” cast a that starred bloggers of all shapes and sizes to model their bathing suits, providing videos about finding the best suit for any size or body type. Refinery29 called the campaign a “game changer.” As we wrote in our Body Positive trend, the body positivity movement has gained serious momentum with Millennials and teens, who are broadcasting their desire to have all shapes and sizes accepted. Hashtags like #EffYourBeautyStandards and new idols like Tess Holiday have sparked a passionate community of young consumers online—and they’re looking for lasting change. Brands that make missteps with too-skinny models, over-zealous Photoshopping, or perceived fat-shaming are being called out, and are expected to apologize, make amends—and embrace the body positive mentality.
Younger consumers believe that brands should be listening to them, and that if they make enough noise their opinions will be heard—and they keep being proven right. From product creation to marketing, we’re seeing more—often young—brands turn to their Millennial consumers to help shape the direction of the brand. Daily newsletter The Skimm has two Millennial founders and thanks to their passionate, and growing, mostly Millennial-female audience they have found big success in a relatively short time. But TheSkimm has always relied on their young readership to shape their brand. Their first hire outside of the founders was reportedly a passionate subscriber, and they’ve created a structured program to turn more young, engaged readers (they boast a 40% open rate) into mini-marketers. The brand uses their newsletter to recruit influencers to act as word-of-mouth Skimm ambassadors (they call them Skim’bassadors): readers who get 10 friends to sign up are asked to participate. These select readers then have chances to attend special events, win prizes, and network with other Skim’bassadors. The Skim-bassador community is currently made up of 6,000 female Millennials across the country, and the brand reports that 10% of their signups are thanks to the group.
SPOTIFY DISCOVER WEEKLY, TASTE REWIND, & YEAR IN MUSIC
In the hyper-competitive world of streaming services, “personalization and intelligent suggestions reign supreme” and Spotify is running a near non-stop cycle of smart partnerships with outside brands and innovative new features to appeal to users, and make the app increasingly more personal and customized to each user. Their new Discover Weekly feature creates a weekly personalized playlist of “deep cut” tracks for users, based on their music tastes, combining several things that we know are interesting to Millennial music lovers: having music (or any products) hyper-customized to their interests, getting data-based suggestions, and discovering new tracks (so they can then tell their friends, of course). In June, Spotify also launched “Taste Rewind,” a feature that shows users “which artists [they] would be listening to if [they] were born in another time.” Rewind creates playlists based on decades past by asking users to choose three modern day artists they like best from a list, and creating complementary music collections from the ‘60s, ‘70s, through the 2000s. Finally, the app is closing off the year with their now anticipated annual Year in Music tool, giving users the opportunity to see the tracks that dominated their ears for 2015. Many users share their end of year music data on social, amplifying Spotify’s effort. Their constant new features and efforts to personalize the platform seem to be working: when we asked Millennials which music streaming service is their favorite, Spotify came out on top.