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Visual content and millennials

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Visual content is powerful at grabbing attention and quickly sharing information.

As you may have heard, millennials are now the largest age demographic within the Canadian workforce. They also happen to represent massive amounts of direct and indirect buying power as influencers. Millennials represent potential lifetime customers, if they are targeted appropriately by marketers. So what really sets my generation apart from other generations?

Studies show that millennials are generally more interested in content topics such as technology, comedy and the environment relative to those belonging to generation X and the baby boomers. However, they are relatively less interested in world news, politics, and local news in comparison to the boomers and not as interested in healthy living as generation X. They are also said to value diversity, sharing, discovery and passion higher than these older generations. Now, one may attribute these observations to the gift of youth, but data shows consistency throughout the age spectrum within the millennial demographic. This suggests that these values are unlikely to change with age and as a result define the generation.

So, if we have different values and interests how do we react to traditional marketing efforts?

Millennials like me have been raised in a digital age where they are more likely to be conditioned to recognizing, and consequently skipping, direct advertising attempts. We have a disdain for commercials being raised with the luxury of Tivo, adblocker, and satellite radio. With the abundance of popular social documentaries placing government and corporations as the bad guy. It appears we have reached a stage where it is commonplace for young people to be especially cynical of corporations and skeptical towards sales pitches, believing there is always an angle being played.

The combination of this attitude with mobile being the dominant device of choice, and an affinity for multitasking, has made our demographic a different entity — less susceptible to traditional marketing techniques. Companies must look at their brand beyond goods and services but rather as a personality, with values and style. They can help create a better machine for communicating and spreading content, without an explicit call to action to share. Value congruence can form a connection with us digital natives. In order to capture this significant market, marketers must develop brands that effectively communicate through the favoured media and topics of interest, while displaying those important values. Effective social marketing is not solely in the publishing itself. The real value is made through inspiring others to share that content for you.

So what do millennials prefer to share? Well it seems images and videos are preferred to text based content. Visual content is powerful at grabbing attention and quickly sharing information. In fact, images, videos and infographics can help with memory retention by more than 40% than text based content.

So this content is more engaging for audiences, but how is it specifically better suited to millennials?

As a member of this generation, the brands I enjoy most appeal to my personality and identity. In Vancouver we have two competing high end gourmet grocery store chains in Whole Foods Market and Urban Fare. Both provide customers with exceptional quality and service, but one is mission based while the other is simply a gourmet store. That matters to me. The Whole Foods Market brand has a values based mission. They are focused on social responsibility and healthy living, values that much of their audience can identify with. Connecting with the pathos of the audience, through colour and imagery help personify a brand. A positive emotional connection engages the audience to keep that brand in their evoked set. With positive feelings towards a logo or brand name can result in a halo effect on their decision making.

Sharing on social media is a sign that the information is validated by the audience so much that they want to pass it along to their own network. There are plenty of posts and articles I read on any given day which are extremely interesting to me, however I usually do not share them. My network may also enjoy this information, but unless I feel a strong connection to the brand or topic I rarely feel the urge to click “share”. I believe we all use brands as representations of our own selves, in addition to connecting with others through this common identity. All in all, my generation isn’t that different, however a shift towards communicating values based brand identities that are supported by unique visual content are better suited to engage millennials and encourage exponential brand awareness through the free advertising they offer.