In the thirty seconds it takes to read this introduction, a commercial will run on TV.

It will be for a brand peddling a product or service and it will claim the highest of quality for said product or service. It may even offer a special discount or rebate with a fast approaching deadline. The commercial will look great, be well organized, and have the fingerprints of catchy marketing all over it.

In short, it’s a TV ad—and if Forbes is right, 62 percent of Millennials will not be interested, curious, or even moved to purchase from that brand. Why? Because they weren’t being engaged on social media.

While the TV commercial was running, they were preoccupied catching up with trends on social media. While the TV commercial was running for just 30 seconds, they were interacting with another brand on Instagram who was calling people to tag a friend or comment on a relevant hashtag on that brand’s picture.

By the time the commercial—a great commercial even—had finished, a brand using progressive measures such as social media had created a personal connection and built loyalty with the Millennial audience.

Millennials (18-29 years old), or the “always connected generation,” are 80 million strong. Their estimated spending is $600 billion and they are responsible for roughly 21 percent of consumer discretionary power—certainly substantial enough to warrant marketing attention from anyone dedicated to being successful.

For those who want to tap into this Millennial potential, there are four keys to building and retaining those customers: authenticity, digital messages, multi-channel marketing, and incentives and rewards.
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1. Authenticity

Authenticity will sell more than ads.

In a study held by the communications and public relations firm of Cohn & Wolfe, consumers consider a brand to be authentic when the company delivers on what it promises, protects consumer data, respects privacy, and interacts with their customers with transparency and integrity.

A brand’s sales pitch is of little to no importance to Millennials. They are concerned with the brand’s actions, realized quality, and community awareness. These traits can be referred to in a broader category deemed “Customer Service/Relations.”

In Cohn & Wolfe’s study (12,000 people participated from Brazil, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States), 69 percent of the participants claim customer relations is more important than the brand’s beliefs and environmental footprint. This claim is evident on their list of the top authentic brands worldwide, as its number one spot is claimed by a certain mouse.

Disney has been known for delivering the best customer service since Disneyland opened in 1955. In fact, the authenticity comes from the company’s transparent attitude regarding customers. Every employee, or “Cast Member,” must go through the Disney University where they learn to respect people, not as customers, but as guests.

2. Digital messages

Millennials respond well to social media messages and marketing. The 62 percent of Millennials that won’t be inspired by a simple TV commercial are more likely to become loyal customers if a brand engages them on social media. A brand’s social media presence has become so important that we even have awards for the most buzz-worthy. In fact, the Shorty Awards is in its eighth year, and it’s only growing.

The Shorty Awards celebrates brands and people who have gone above and beyond to convey excellent content using social media. Platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, Periscope, Facebook Video, and YouTube are being used to promote more than products or services; they are new formats that allow brands and people to connect, communicate, interact, and share.

Reynolds Wrap, a familiar name that has been around for 70 years, took advantage of these new content formats to gain relevancy among younger audiences.

In a bold strategy, Reynolds Wrap did an unconventional overhaul of its online presence. Using Instagram, they created the “Endless Table” campaign.

On their Instagram feed, overhead pictures of exquisite food plates (grouped seasonally) are collaged together to create an endless table of food. When you click on a picture, you will find the background for the recipe, the recipe itself, links to similar recipes, and everyone’s comments regarding that dish. They also directed and pushed audiences to their Instagram page using a variety of other social media outlets to attain as many visits as possible.

Reynolds Wrap didn’t spend money on advertisements, better shelf placement, new slogans, or new product development. They simply interacted with the community, created high-quality content, reached out to the public, and made a personal connection. Their following not only increased 1,300 percent, but they won in the Multi-Platform Campaign category, were a finalist in the Instagram Presence category, and were awarded the bronze distinction in photography and graphics.

Reynolds Wrap established itself as a brand that creates value for its consumer, increased its affinity and relevance, and reached new audiences by creating the first ever Instagram “cookbook.”

3. Multi-channel marketing

It isn’t good enough to have a presence on one or two social media platforms. There may be popular channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but great marketing occurs on as many social media channels as is necessary to reach the maximum potential target audience. Multi-channel loyalty works in the same way. Offering more than one way to build loyalty will draw a larger, more loyal audience.

Just as a broker suggests diversifying a financial portfolio, so should a brand diversify its marketing presence. Millennials are the most brand loyal generation; Elite Daily and Crowdtwist released a report revealing 50.5 percent Millennials claim extreme loyalty to their brands. When brands emerge on multiple social media platforms, they increase their visibility to the public. If the brand is authentic, people will take notice. Once a following begins, more people will flock to it and stand by that brand as “their” brand.

Multi-channel loyalty programs increase exposure as equally. While loyalty has been rewarded in the past through transactional history only (buy a soda, get one free; airline miles with purchase of tickets; and so on), we are now seeing the emergence of “disruptors.” Disruptors are changing how consumers view loyalty and finding new paths to securing a long-term relationship with consumers.

Pepsi has had recent success implementing new channels to attain loyalty. Pepsi ran a campaign that engaged customers to sign up with their “Pepsi Pass” loyalty program. The program works more as a club, with members interacting with each other and with the various Pepsi products. They gain loyalty points by purchasing Pepsi (standard), hanging out with other Pepsi Pass members, and collecting Pepsi Emojis. According to Pepsi, loyalty points can be put toward “epic rewards like concerts, getaways, and exclusive events.” In summary, buying Pepsi can be rewarded with grander prizes than just more of the same.

Many of the decisions we make are influenced by the people around us. Audiences will trust a brand that has been vouched for by family and friends, thus creating an online word-of-mouth marketing campaign that promotes itself. Multi-channel loyalty breeds a stronger connection with consumers, who in turn have a greater incentive to involve everyone in their social circle.

4. Incentives and rewards

Brand incentives and rewards can result in heavy Millennial traffic, as long as they are accessible and easily applicable. According to Forrester Consulting, 79 percent of the surveyed shoppers won’t buy an item if they forget the in-store coupon. Paper coupons, rebates, and general specials are not as effective because of their use requirements.

Brands can benefit most from digital coupon redemption experiences that are automatic. For example, card-linked deals are coupons that work in the background of consumers’ debit and credit cards. They have become extremely popular with positive results as Millennials continue to give a brand loyalty if they are earning cash back on every purchase. According to John Caron, CMO at Linkable Networks, “Marketers who consider invisible redemption (card-linked) will win the race to scale digital couponing.”

Millennials want more from their brand’s incentives and rewards as well. They want something that is shareable! When a brand offers an included and desired experience, it naturally generates organic exposure necessary to the social media platforms.

Brand loyalty relies on total brand equity—the brand represents a promise to customers and employees. Offering a strong positive experience to all parties involved directly results in the advancement of growth goals. Rewards should be transparent and simple to use to maintain loyalty.

Brands such as Under Armour, AT&T, Autozone, Bebe, and Smoothie King have taken advantage of card-linked offers by working with Bank of America. First, you go to Bank of America Online and add these deals to your debit card. Each deal offers different incentives like a definite amount of money back for joining a service, or a percentage back as a returning customer (usually used with food or clothes). This system benefits parties on all sides of the sale. Bank of America gains more customers, the brand sees an increase in sales, and the consumer earns cash back on purchases made without jumping through hoops.

Building and retaining loyalty with Millennials does not need to be difficult. It calls on brands to be personally available to their customers as well as define themselves through interaction in lieu of general claims.

It may be difficult to keep up with every new emerging platform, so focus on the platforms mostly used by your target audience. Millennials want to interact and create a story, not just make a purchase. So, give them an emotional connection, a chance to share, and in return, they will be loyal, share with their social circles, and remember the positive experience they were given.

AvatarAndrew Deen

Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and is currently writing a book about scaling up business.