3 Event Marketing Strategies for Reaching Millennials

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Contrary to popular belief, Millennials aren’t lazy or narcissistic (at least not any more than previous generations) and we aren’t killing everything great about this country (unless you really are bemoaning the downfall of Applebee’s).

While we aren’t the stereotypical monsters that we are portrayed as in the media, there are some differences between us and the generations that came before us. Traditional marketing doesn’t have the same effect on us. Millennials are cynical and that cynicism makes the job of marketers, even event marketers, that much harder.

No matter how advanced your event management software is, no technology can overcome a generational hurdle. But once you understand how to market to my generation, you’ll find that we aren’t difficult, just different.

That’s why I’ve put together these three marketing strategies for event planners to use to target Millennials.

1. Embrace authenticity

When I was growing up, entertainment and advertising showed a much more optimistic view of the world. TV shows survived using predictable tropes such as “the hero always gets the girl” and advertisers sold the glistening promise that your life will improve with the purchase of their product or service. This way of thinking was a byproduct of a more optimistic time coming out of the late eighties and nineties that enveloped Generation X.

Millennials, on the other hand, are not so optimistic. My generation entered into a lackluster job market after the financial crisis of the last decade.

Because of this, Millennials are not moved by traditional advertising. Instead, they seek out authenticity, according to Matthew Tyson at The Huffington Post:

So where does all this corporate distrust originate? Perhaps it’s because they grew up in an age of social media and transparency, where everyone and everything is knowable.Maybe it’s because they’re buried in student debt.Or perhaps it’s because their formative years were overshadowed by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they’re not moved by flashy ads, big promises, and “wow” factor. [Millennials] want authentic messages, authentic brands, and authentic interactions.

But what is authentic?

For starters, what sounds like an authentic conversation to you? One person talking at another person or an open dialogue between two people? Obviously the latter scenario, which is exactly what Millennials are looking for in marketing. They want to know that their voice is heard by marketers.

According to Forbes, 62% of Millennials say that they are more likely to become loyal customers if brands engage them on social networks.

For Millennials, that open line of communication gives a brand a sense of authenticity. It means that brands value Millennials enough to hear them out.

This authenticity can be used in your event marketing strategy. Rather than assuming you know what Millennials want to see at an event, make an effort to survey your target audience before the event takes place so you can be sure the event will cater to their tastes. Responding to food needs or tastes, music choice, and event mood shows that you care about your Millennial attendees, which in turn results in their loyalty.

2. Don’t patronize your Millennial attendees

Another way to come across as authentic to Millennials is to make sure you are not patronizing them. Trying to shoehorn in hip terms and jargon that you normally wouldn’t use only paints your event marketing campaign as old and out of touch.

Don’t be this guy… (via YouTube)

Nothing will drive away Millennial attendees faster than trying to get them to attend your “Pokemans event that is, like, totally on fleek.”

As Adam Conover, the host of “Adam Ruins Everything,” said in a speech at a Millennial marketing conference (with heavy sarcasm): “Millennials love nothing more than to be condescended to by a 45 year old.”

For more little gems on Millennial marketing, I highly recommend watching his full speech:

Millennial marketing for dummies by Adam Conover (via YouTube)

Don’t use words or phrases such as “lit” or “on fleek” because chances are, they’ll come across as pandering. Market your events to Millennials like any other attendee because by and large, that’s exactly what they are and they want you to treat them that way. Use common words or turns of phrase that anyone would use in a conversation, regardless of their generation.

3. Give back

Millennials want to know that their money and time is going to a worthwhile cause. That’s not to say that previous generations had a vested interest in throwing their money at terrible causes, but the financial crisis left Millennials searching for transparency from businesses.

Perhaps your event is making strides toward a smaller carbon footprint. Maybe your event is focused around a fundraiser for endangered species. Whatever it is, make sure that those efforts are front and center when marketing your event.

SXSW does an excellent job of this by putting sustainability at the heart of their event. They host panels on the subject of sustainability over many of the event’s focus topics such as technology, art, and film.

Talks on sustainability at SXSW (via YouTube)

Millennials want to see that their attendance is making a difference rather than just being told so. SXSW dedicates entire forums to topics such as gender inclusion, environmental impact, and culture shifts in the event schedule in order to engage Millennial attendees on issues that matter to them, rather than simply selling a product.

Other event marketing resources and strategies

Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest generation in America. Set yourself up for success in the foreseeable future by using these tips to target your event marketing strategy to Millennials.

For additional information and resources on event marketing, be sure to check out these other pieces of mine on the Capterra event management technology blog:

Looking for Event Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Event Management software solutions.

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Nick Morpus

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Nick Morpus is a former Capterra analyst.

Comments

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I think the overall tone here is to treat all people with respect regardless of their age, and you’re absolutely right, Nick – people don’t take the Millennial generation seriously, and a failure to do so hurts everyone. Thanks for sharing!

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