Marketing to millennials can't be 'phony'

Organisations can't just do digital, they have to be digital businesses, says Pegasystems CMO

Marketing to millennials on new media platforms needs to be authentic and embedded in the way you do business, otherwise they won't respond, Pegasystems’ CMO and CTO agree.

Speaking at a business lunch last week to discuss digital disruption, Don Schuerman, CTO of Pegasystems, along with Robert Tas, the vendor’s CMO, discussed marketing methods for hooking millennial consumers in the digital age.

Schuerman said the message needs to be genuine to succeed, otherwise it is a "facade" that seems "jarringly painful".

"Going back to Holden Caulfield’s time - millennials have been very good at diagnosing phonies...fakers… it’s got to be genuine," he said. "Millennials can figure out the corporate pitch on Tumblr that’s not actually a real guy. The organisations that do this should know how to use the new media in a way that is genuine to the millennial consumer and not just grandpa on Twitter."

According to Tas, organisations are too often trying to "do digital" instead of "be digital". Relying on new media like Twitter and Facebook means not just asking millennials what they want, but also responding to what they don't want, he said.

"The point of authenticity and transparency is it’s OK to make a mistake, as long as you admit it, and I think that's the first step in our new world," said Tas. He cited an incident where Bank of America announced the introduction of new fees on Twitter, only to rescind them after a public backlash.

"It's interesting that the bank changed its strategy because of social media. I think we’re seeing that evolution, and companies are trailing a little bit on learning how to internalise that, learning how to do the change of management," Tas said.

Related: Vice: Targeting millennials is about opt-in content
New report busts myths about millennials and their digital and social behaviour

Tas recommended organisations struggling to embrace digital in all elements of business strategy should read What would Google do? by Jeff Jarvis.

"It imagines if Google was in the auto business or the finance business and so forth, and it really makes you think. If companies like Facebook or Amazon were in your business, how would they do it?" Tas asked.

Even traditional industrial companies such as General Electric (GE) are blazing the trail, particularly with Pinterest handles, which Tas said illustrated the authenticity brands needed to be successful.

"They’re posting about an aircraft engine on Pinterest and it’s their brand, it’s their storytelling, it gets the morale of their employees going and shows their product in a light that you wouldn't otherwise think about," said Tas.

"You sense that this engineer talking about this engine loves this engine, and other people will want to hear about and see what he or she is posting," added Schuerman. "And it's working for them, because it’s genuine."

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