Talking to millennials

This generation demands transparency, authenticity and relevance. Yet even though these qualities seem to be elusive to Madison Avenue, isn’t this what the church has always aspired to be?

Believe it or not, there is a trend right now in marketing culture toward authenticity. With the immense growth of social media, marketers and advertisers have come to realize that their brands can’t grow without authenticity so great that their customers want to speak kindly of them in social media.

smartphonephotoCompanies have always known that word of mouth is the best marketing tool. In the past, something either positive or negative that someone said about your brand would circulate within a small circle of friends. Now, however, that small circle of friends can become hundreds or thousands of Facebook friends with comments that can literally be “re-Tweeted” to the masses.

As important as authenticity is with everyone, the millennials own it. If they feel someone is being either manipulative or false with them, they will dismiss them immediately – and then let the world know via social media how offensive that fake message is.

This generation demands transparency, authenticity and relevance. Yet even though these qualities seem to be elusive to Madison Avenue, isn’t this what the church has always aspired to be?

If millennials crave transparency, authenticity and relevance, then it seems that the Episcopal Church is in a prime position to reach them. We instinctively understand the first two because they should be part of our foundation. What I think often gives us pause is the relevance part. Of course, the redemptive power of the Gospel is, in and of itself, relevant. That’s not the point. The point is we have to talk to and listen to millennials in order to learn how to wrap that message in a way that doesn’t seem cliché and trite, but feels relevant to them. If we do that, then they will start talking about the message in positive ways – because we know that sharing all aspects of life via social media is simply “what millennials do”.

According to a recent piece done by AdAge, there are a few essentials to social marketing to millennials:

1. Be fast – for millennials, if you can’t say it in 140 characters or less, then it’s not worth saying.

2. Be clever – always err on the side of overestimating millennials. They are smart and savvy and their roots are in college culture. According to Nick Shore, head of research for MTV, “Smart and funny is the new rock ‘n’ roll.”

3. Be transparent – millennials recognize a phony ploy from a mile away. They don’t just appreciate transparency. They demand it.

4. Give them a reason to talk about you – if you give millennials a reason to talk about you on social media, then they will. It’s simply what they do.