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ais London - Creative innovation that people value

Executive Creative Director, Geoff Gower

Marketing to millennials: the rise of content co-creation

In online advertising, we constantly crave the attention of that dynamic and yet all too often elusive demographic group: millennials. It’s tough work – they’re all glued to their laptops, tablets or mobile screens, but the chances of them taking in your carefully crafted message can be pretty low when you’re competing with twerking videos or Grumpy Cat.

So how do we attract these people? The answer is close to home: the millennials themselves are consistently producing content for their peers to consume and share. The trick for advertisers is to harness some of the ingenuity that millennials possess when creating engaging online content. One of the most effective ways to do this is by allowing the audience to become co-creators of the actual advertising content. Some of the strongest online creative content out there has seen a brand use the audience to help shape the direction of the campaign.

The key to co-branding is to allow the audience to feel part of the campaign while retaining some control. This isn’t always an easy concept for brands to grasp: it requires bravery to put faith in voices beyond the office walls. But being brave can pay off. By giving millennials the opportunity to co-create, you’re automatically encouraging brand loyalty. By becoming directly involved with a brand, they gain a feeling of influence and control, while seeing that their input actually matters – thus this encourages them to continue to engage.

At this year’s SXSW, Oreo co-branded to good effect when it turned tweets into treats. Festival-goers, many of whom fall into the millennial demographic, were able to create personalised cookies, based on trending Twitter topic and with the use of a 3D printer. The concept was a huge hit, with queues of up to three hours.

Millennials can prove to be one of your most willing sources of ideas. As digital natives, they naturally expect a stage on which their voice can be heard,and are programmed to have access to choice. Co-creation allows for all this.

In fact, when brands allow their audience to become part of their campaign strategy, this enables their message to be grown organically among the target audience. Multinational clothing brand Urban Outfitters used social media and its website to drive customer participation among millennials. Online shoppers could visit the “Show Us Your UO” section of the website and view dozens of fan-submitted images of outfits. By hovering over the photos, online consumers could buy the clothing items seen on the photos. According to a marketing manager at Urban Outfitters, the brand was able to build a community, with millennials actively submitting hundreds of photos.

Of course, brands communicate with millennials in other ways too – one of the most widely reported involves the vlogger movement. Big name brands from Mulberry to Mountain Dew have become involved in blogger-brand partnerships. YouTube is awash with teens and twenty-somethings advising on everything from food to fashion – the kind of advice that is lapped up and shared among peer groups with viral voracity. Advertisers have been quick to catch on to the power of this type of peer-to-peer recommendation.

But going viral is a tough thing to do. Many vloggers plugged away for years – long before the brand partnerships came along – to reach the number of eyeballs they have. Hooking up with the latest YouTube sensation is one way to put millennials at the heart of branded content, but by no means the only route.

Brands and millennials share one very common goal – both just want to be heard. The fact that our millennials are digital natives makes them the obvious choice in helping brands to create content that will achieve cut-through. Co-creation makes for a happy, involved audience and a brand that trusts that audience enough to put it at the heart of its messaging – it’s a win-win situation all round.

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