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How to Use Experiential Marketing to Reach Millennials

By Steve Randazzo – Founder & President, Pro Motion Inc.

Pop-ups, brightly colored billboards, screaming salespeople: This is all background noise to Millennials, and any attempt to grab their attention through these traditional means gets ignored like a bad smell or a car alarm.

Millennials love tech and apparel and are very brand-savvy — but they’ve grown up in an era that features ad-blockers, DVRs, and other advancements that make marketers tear their hair out.

This is where experiential marketing proves its worth. By creating a non-interruptive experience and transporting it to Millennials’ home turf, brands can interact with this generation on their terms while creating authentic, lasting connections.

Go Where the Ducks Are


Experiential Marketing @ Changi Airport.
Walter Lim (CC BY 2.0)

There’s an old saying I love: “If you want to hunt ducks, go where the ducks are.

Millennials go to concerts and festivals, attend sporting events, and wander around downtown. When you set up a brand-related experience at these locations, you seamlessly integrate your products into the context of their lives.

With experiential marketing, consumers don’t just see the benefits of your product; they experience them. Offering free samples on a busy street corner will lead consumers to walk away from your brand with a good taste in their mouths — literally.

My company recently managed a 27-market campaign for Snapple aimed squarely at Millennials. Well-trained brand ambassadors packed loads of samples into eye-catching branded vehicles and toured the country, hitting Millennial hot spots and engaging with hundreds of thousands of young consumers along the way.

If it’s in your budget, you could even take over an entire city. That’s what Bud Light did for its Up For Whatever campaign. The beer brand invited 1,000 Millennials to a Colorado ski town for a weekend of free beer and partying. The campaign caught fire, and the company’s vice president called it “without a doubt, our most successful campaign [of 2014].”

Take It Further Than Free Samples

Experiential marketing is also great for brands that sell a particular way of life. Red Bull, for example, understands that its consumers are less interested in the energy drink itself and more concerned with finding their next adrenaline rushes. So the brand creates marketing events that involve extreme sports and crazy stunts, such as Felix Baumgartner’s infamous space jump.

Likewise, Jeep knows that its target audience buys its vehicles for their ruggedness, so the company creates experiences that feed into these sentiments, such as the Camp Jeep off-road obstacle course and the Jeep Jamboree meet-ups.

Experiential marketing is all about seamlessly and authentically nestling your brand and message into your audience’s life. Millennials are creatures of convenience who live in an on-demand world, and the best way to reach them is to offer an activity they’ll love at a venue they’re happy to attend.

Here are four tips to help you create the best experience:

1. Keep It Real

Millennials have amazing b.s. detectors, so don’t try to be something you aren’t. Inauthentic attempts at speaking to young people can have disastrous results — like when DiGiorno appeared to endorse domestic violence by using what they thought was a hip hashtag. If your brand thinks Drake is a male duck, don’t add rap music to your experiential campaign. Take a step back, stay true to your identity, and assess what you truly have to offer this young demographic.

2. Stay Relevant

Like Jeep and Red Bull, you need to always ensure your marketing experiences align with the experiences your young customers seek. Social media can give you a great window into these hopes and dreams, so read tweets, peruse Pinterest boards, and browse YouTube to see the activities associated with your product and industry.

3. Hit the Right Place at the Right Time

“Going where the ducks are” is easy in theory, but successfully doing so requires some research. College campuses are crawling with Millennials, but who’s to say they will actually be interested in the experience you’ve set up? You probably won’t gain much traction handing out ice cream samples in the dead of winter in a town that has an amazing homemade ice cream parlor. Choosing a venue with tons of Millennials is just the first step; you also need to make sure you visit the right environment at the right time.

4. Make It Share-Worthy

“Pics or it didn’t happen” is a Millennial mantra. This is the generation that pioneered the selfie stick; Millennials love to document their every move, and they’re immensely concerned with a fear of missing out. Be sure to create a photogenic event, and attach hashtags and searchable terms to it. If Millennials think your experience is cool enough to be shared, you’ve done your job well.

If you want to reach Millennials, it’s immensely important you take the time to get to know them. Learn where they hang out, what has them reaching for their phones, and what lifestyle they seek to portray when they snap selfies. This knowledge will give you countless ideas for how to wrap your product or service up in an experience that creates value for this vibrant (but ad-adverse) generation.

In what ways does your brand specifically appeal to Millennials? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

By Steve Randazzo – Founder & President, Pro Motion Inc.
Steve is the founder and president of Pro Motion Inc., an experiential marketing agency located in Missouri. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Steve has long-standing relationships with big-name clients, including Tractor Supply Company, Duck, Fiskars, Citgo, the NBA, The Walt Disney Company, and Hewlett-Packard.