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Marketing to Millennials – A Sideboard interview with Emma Thompson

We are delighted to continue our Sideboard series of expert interviews with a question and answer session with Emma Thompson, Head Of Agency at Golley Retail, part of the Golley Slater Group.

What should companies be doing differently to market themselves successfully to a millennial workforce?

I believe employers who allow flexibility to aid work-life balance can retain any generation of workforce, especially millennials. Millennials will assess good employers not only on salary and career progression. The ability to work from home or apply for sabbaticals offers a lot of added value outside of remunerations and appeals to the work-life mindset of Gen Y and Gen Z. Sometimes these benefits can be ‘traded’ for annual pay rises and promotions that are sometimes hard to give in the current climate – and not necessarily drivers for these age groups.

Another thing they are often looking for is exposure to senior leaders and training. Blurring of reporting lines with a stripped-down hierarchy of decision-makers can help entice and retain millennials as they will learn more and feel like they are contributing. One approach that I have found to be particularly successful is cultivating an ‘ideas from anyone’ philosophy so everyone feels valued.

What benefits do you think this generation could bring to a modern workplace?

Getting the right balance between experience and enthusiasm is key to workplace dynamics. Marketing is one sector that understands the changing interests of the population. When promoting consumer brands there is a real need to evolve and empathise with the next generation. This can be done through research but intuitive input from millennials in the workplace can shortcut this process or at least contribute to the data gathered from other sources.

Do you think more companies should be considering millennials for boardroom or other senior roles?

Controversially, this point I disagree on. Any board room discussions are based on commercial foundations but are also very human in nature. It is my belief that anyone without a decade plus experience in management wouldn’t possess the experience or maturity to make decisions on workforce. Managers need to be behavioural strategists to deliver decisions that will impact positively on all employees and that are also commercially sound.

What are the most common mistakes companies make in their marketing (or what are they not doing that they should be)?

Many companies forget to take into account the diversity of their target audience – both in terms of mindset and where and how their target consumes content. A generic message that is flooded across multiple media channels can miss the spot altogether and fail to engage potential customers. Millennials are looking for tailored, personalised and customised content, served up to them when they are listening. Failing to do this results in low engagement, at best.

How is the value of marketing changing in business? (is it becoming more important or just being done differently?)

Marketing budgets have reduced and product sales data is used to evaluate success. Data can be useful to measure the impact of campaigns but it does need to be used in moderation.

With marketing becoming ever more results driven and with tighter KPIs being set at the start of a campaign, the emphasis has shifted. This is most apparent in the way that some blue chip companies are renaming Chief Marketing Officer positions to Chief Growth Officer.

If marketers become too reliant on data to measure the success of a marketing campaign they may only ever analyse WHAT occurred, never WHY.

What is your favourite marketing campaign of the past year and why?

I love KFC this year! They have adopted fantastic reactive content with a brilliant sense of humour – from the “We’re sorry” advert in response to supply shortages to Neyman rolling around the floor in the recent World Cup for their social ad “make a meal of it”, which went viral in South Africa. A great example of creativity and very refreshing to see.

How do you think the way businesses communicate with their target market will change in the next few years?

That’s the million-dollar question. Who knows what’s around the corner. IoT (the Internet of Things) is changing the way we consume information, shop, work and make decisions. Businesses need to be aligned with the technology curve that affects them and their target audience or they simply will not survive.