Getting Real with Millennial Marketing: An Internet Summit Session Recap
Nov 22, 2016
“We live in a world where your Medium.com post can get you a job,” said Hassan Ali, Creative Marketing Director for The Onion, during his presentation at the 2016 Internet Summit in Raleigh. “My friend started a Medium post a few years ago about how he stopped drinking and it lead to a book deal.”
It’s true: you don’t need to have Nike budgets to make an impact anymore — you can compete with the big guns if you strategize in a smart way.
Ali’s first lesson was to assume no one cares.
“People in general do not think about advertising, we need to be persuaded to care,” he explained. “You need to make something that will make people care.”
The Onion gets real and cuts the BS with marketing assumptions.
“Just adding a hashtag doesn’t make it relevant to millennials, either,” he said. “When something’s done in a way that’s relevant to them, then it connects with millennials”
Brands that are successful on Instagram actually connect with their consumers. Instead of explaining all the virtues of the fabric of a pair of yoga pants, they show a customer who’s using the new yoga pants in an interesting way.
“Or they’re talking about employees who are cool in their company and doing something cool,” said Ali. “They will still talk about product, but in an interesting way and not just say ‘Buy, Buy, Buy!’”
This is where you are actually building a story and a brand voice. Many people follow a brand on Instagram, and they do it because they are engaged with the story behind the brand.
“Create effective content. Use a post to get people involved in your brand and engaged in your brand in some way,” he added. “Friends of mine have started brands based off engaging content, and it’s more than just about going viral.”
Brands are always wanting to reach the readers of The Onion.
“We have millions of awesome, smart readers, but we’re not just going to put banner ads on our site,” he said. “We use native advertising, and marry our ‘Onion’ voice with their brand and create advertising we are proud of. Our audience loves our voice, so we advertise in that same voice.”
One example of this was the Lawnbnb campaign, which was actually product placement for Scotts. Thousands of people engaged with this video, and 823 thousand shared it.
“When we were brainstorming for a concept for Scotts, we asked ourselves ‘what do milllennials love right now?’ We came up with Airbnb as something they really liked and went from there, asking ourselves what if there was a Lawnbnb,” he said.
Some of the best brainstorming comes from asking ‘What if…’ and then filling in the blank. You might get some weird responses, but you’ll also find some relatable truths and come up with a much more engaging way of reaching your audience.
Another benefit for Scotts was the ROI.
“If you break it down, it was less than $.01 cost per view, and it was shared as much as editorial content,” he added.
- Be Authentic – “Write your brainstorm ideas in the Facebook status bar with the thought of how would you convince your friends? And imagine the comments,” he said. “Just don’t actually post it!”
- Truth + Entertainment = : ) – “There are truths, so find these truths,” he said. “Truths like ‘what do IT people find funny?’ Then add a layer of entertainment to that and then it’s great!”
- Embrace Publishers – “Publishers can give real feedback,” he said. “It’s a growth hack to getting around the idea of feeling BS-y. All publishers, like Business Insider, or the New York Times, will take something and make it their voice.”
- Final- Think Outside the Ad – “Do something beyond the ad, like interacting with an audience through chat bots,” he said.
“There are multiple advantages of branded content,” Ali said. “Audiences are more willing to play along, it’s done in a familiar voice and it goes through a BS filter for quality control.”
So go get real and engage your audience with your amazing, authentic content.
I’ve always loved to write. When I was in elementary school I would write plays for the neighborhood kids to perform. Later, I got hold of a video camera so I could create funny videos. As an English major at the University of North Carolina, I discovered that I could write fun scripts that told stories for a career. Boom! Advertising/Journalism immediately became my second major. I moved to Chicago to work at some amazing ad agencies like FCB and DDB where I sharpened my skills and helped market national brands. I also spent two years studying improv at The Second City, which has certainly helped out in many a presentation. I moved back down south so I could play tennis all year long and was lucky enough to find a workplace like Centerline with other creatives who share ideas and inspire me every day.