Another article on Millennials is just what you need, right? Okay, probably not. In fact, writing about how to understand Millennials is becoming a parody. But what could we use a little more of? Inspiration and perspective, and for that, one has to go out and start Millennialing – actively participating in their culture. The past few months have generously offered up news stories, creative writing and editorials that provide juicy cultural insights and inspiring perspective about this popular cohort.
Talk the Talk
If you haven’t read Sara K. Runnels’ “And God Created Millennial Earth”, published in McSweeney’s earlier this month, stop reading this and read it first. It is the kind of creative piece that offers up more cultural insights than a focus group ever could.
The phrases, references, hashtags, and tone should all be noted as particularly insightful bits about the Millennial language and lifestyle. It also demonstrates the delightful levity of this cohort that while at times feels silly, has an intimate and accessible sense of belonging and community.
Walk the Walk
Nearly every article about Millennials uses the word “experiential.” Rarely are there good examples to help articulate what this “experiential” moment is supposedly like, or how to offer it. Enter Punch Bowl Social and Color Factory to either immerse yourself or go for casual observation to get a sense of this experiential feel. While there are many more examples, I think these both underscore the two most important ingredients to the Millennial experience: aesthetics and activity.
Punch Bowl Social has made a name for itself as an adult playground (or, alternatively called an Eatery), where one can hang out for hours in a 20,000+ square foot entertainment hall, drinking sophisticated cocktails (or lowbrow beer, your call) and play nearly any game from air hockey to pinball and bowling. It captures Millennials’ desire for youthful experiences, the need for adaptable social environments that have visual bragging rights (more on that below) and love of good food.
The Color Factory is, like Punch Bowl Social, an immersive experience described as a 12,000 square foot color wonderland. Each of the 12 rooms are curated for its own unique look, and visitors control when the camera takes their picture, sending it automatically to their email. To really understand experiential is to understand engagement on their level, which Color Factor has clearly done. Both places recognize how design-savvy and design-oriented Millennials are, and the desire for “good clean fun” despite an older age.
Look the Look
Visual communication is paramount these days, which is not news. But that restaurants are designing their interiors specifically to make Instagrammable-worthy shots is, and speaks to the importance of the visual aesthetic for this cohort. Good light, thoughtful design, and interesting content are the combinations to make Instagram magic.
Brands that can foster this kind of visual magic are triggers in and of themselves to Millennials, without much consideration to what they actually offer or sell. But why? Merkl, in their WARC webinar “Why Millennials Buy: A Neuroanalytics Approach to Marketing,” calls this attraction ‘social recognition’ where the highest order benefit of a brand is not how it makes Millennials feel – much less the product’s features and benefits – but the favorable impression it creates about them to their social group. In other words, brands that look past features and benefits, and even how it makes the consumer feel, to give them visual social currency that is recognized by a third party can stretch brand relevance. Social Recognition, as it relates to the importance of visuals, is evident in how restaurants are changing their visual aesthetic, recognizing the way food looks and/or the environment it’s consumed in can matter more to Millennials and those following their Instagram account.
It Always Comes Back To Culture
We are culture hounds at ULTRA and if you’ve worked with us, you know this about us. Consumers approach the world in a cultural context, and culture influences opinions and decisions. Brent Smart, CMO of Australian insurance conglomerate IAG spoke recently on the topic of how important culture is: “Consumers don’t see a piece of work and say, ‘Wow, for that tough brief, that’s a really good piece of work’. They don’t think like marketers.” He said brands aren’t really competing with one another, instead “as marketers, we’re competing with culture. And most of the time, culture is way more interesting.” And Millennials are not just incredible consumers of culture but are actively creating our culture. To know them is to understand how they consume culture and what inspires them to participate in it.