Why is storytelling crucial when marketing to Millennials?

This article was written by Leeroy’s content strategist Louise Chauvet, with experience in generational marketing and consumer behaviour, communications and video production.

First and foremost, the sociological phenomenon Millennials grew up in, and the ideology they formulated from it, is the first step to understanding why “storytelling marketing” has the impact it does on this generation. Millennials are too often categorized as one age group. In truth, they are divided into two separate categories: Early Millennials (EM) and Late Millennials (LM). The difference? Their age when the internet began. Whether they were pre-teens/teens or newborns defines how the internet impacted their early development.

The overarching Millennial group’s years of birth is argued amongst researchers. The most common opinion is that Millennials encompass people born between 1977 and 1994. (Some researchers challenge that Generation Z began in the year 2000, which would extend Millennials for another 6 years). Based on popular opinion, EMs are those born between 1977 and 1989, and LMs are those born between 1990 and 1994.

Unlike their juniors, EMs remember a time before cell phones and the internet. LMs were the first generation to have mobiles, at a young age, with access to the internet. They grew up texting, understanding touch-screens twice as fast as their own parents, and given access to the world through the World Wide Web. The Internet was, and still is, a dangerous tool that parents did not manipulate as well as their children did. Furthermore, LMs were the first generation to be hit with social media whilst they were still in their formative years. Social media was a wondrous tool for many young adults, enabling them to stay connected to friends and family, share their travels and accomplishment. However, for the younger generation, social media brought pressure, cyberbullying, inappropriate pop up ads, and unrealistic life expectations.

Still, Millennials discovered, thanks to the Internet, that they had the right to an opinion, and better-still, could voice it on this platform. The very concept of audience feedback took shape with social media. As a result, marketers have been able to understand what consumers respond to, and why they respond to it.

As the most media-exposed generation to date, they are also the hardest to impress. They have seen it all. Lazy writing, boring concept, and déjà-vu big ideas do not work. Nothing gets passed them. They praise originality, conversation-starters, and sociologically-relevant content. They want an engaging, heavily thought-through, cunningly encoded, and creatively-crafted ad. The best way to satisfy these criteria is: narration.

Storytelling is the oldest medium of communication, and yet, it is consistently successful. It works because its “packaging” evolves with its audience, whilst the core remains. The art of storytelling, as per its name, began simply as a story being told. It tickled a person’s imagination. One listened to a storyteller, and had to imagine and conceive the visuals for him or herself. This aspect has tremendously changed. Millennials are infinitely more visual, than audible beings. Indeed nowadays, not only do we receive five times more information than we did back in 1986, but visually delivered information has taken over. For instance, visual information has increased 400% in literature since 1990, 9900% on the Internet since 2007, and 142% in newspapers.

Generation X (born between 1960 and 1979) readers might be thinking they also enjoy a well-structured and narrated story. This is true. Nevertheless, on top of being a content-focused population, Millennials are also the largest age group with a high level of education, indeed 40% of working 25 to 29 year olds are college-educated, compared to 32% of Gen Xers in 2000 and 26% of Baby Boomers in 1985. No matter the field of expertise, college’s main goal is to elevate one’s thinking, expand one’s horizons, and teach one critical reflection. A better understanding of the world, and critical eye make them the most self-aware generation.

A successful campaign must have a point. Like all good stories, there must be a beginning, a middle, and an end. This trend-waves-based generations will latch onto the beginning of a wave, if it is “worthy” and ride it until it crashes. In other words, Millennials will publicly support a campaign they appreciate, and be vocal about it, until the buzz dials down and they have moved onto the latest buzz-worthy news. To communicate effectively to this generation marketers must be aware of the current trends, and forecast the upcoming ones before they hit. From this prediction, they must formulate a concept based on strong values that makes a point, stands for something. In order to introduce this idea, they must build a story in an original, yet on-brand way. From this intelligently-crafted storyline, they must astutely adapt it to every medium, find its uniqueness on each platform and make it shine. Although consistency and innovation are antonyms, they are both key in turning a temporary successful buzz into long term added brand equity, and building stronger brand loyalty.

Marketers need to, not only be on-top of their game in terms of creativity, but also in terms of understanding their client’s brand personality and ethos. These two pillar aspects collaboratively work towards a storytelling style, which ultimately converts a Millennial user or viewer into a consumer and buyer. The overwhelming majority of Millennials will buy from a brand based on their emotional attachment to its values, as opposed to the quality of the product itself.

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