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Q&A: Andrew Hanelly, SVP of Strategy at McMURRY/TMG, on Marketing to Millennials

August 20, 2014 | By Danielle Block, Director, Agency & Advertiser Relations - DCN

Q: How are you shaping advertising messages to get and hold the Andrew Hanelly Headshotattention of Millennials?

A: The first rule of advertising to Millennials is don’t try to advertise to Millennials. This is a generation that has always been in control of their media experience. They/we grew up with cable, we nearly always had the Internet, and boredom and curiosity are easily killed with the super computers we carry around with us that we call smartphones.

The way to earn the attention of Millennials is to understand and respect their needs. You have to add to their cultural experiences rather than try to interrupt them. And the best way to do that is through inbound marketing with valuable content that delights them. It’s got to be useful or be interesting or it will be ignored.

Q: How are you leveraging social media to communicate with Millennials and to provide CRM?

A: Most agencies and consultants will tell you that the key to social is listening and responding. That’s a nice start, and listening is necessary, but you have to participate to gain traction and build trust.

Successful brands immerse themselves in the community they are trying to be a part of and they humbly serve that community. There are no gimmicks required. Brands should act like a blogger and think like a startup: Embrace the tone of the community you are trying to serve, be transparent about who you are, and always add value by solving problems.

We do this for a number of brands, including ASAE, the center for association leadership. One of their main challenges—as is the case with most organizations—is building a relationship with younger audiences. We built a strategy around serving that audience through a hub-and-spoke social media model. The hub is a media-style website (associationsnow.com) and the spokes are the individual social channels we discovered this audience to be using.

Here’s how it plays out with a very practical example. We saw that our social audience—which is heavily millennial—talking about Google’s recent diversity disclosure. Our social journalism team quickly created context around the issue and shared it with that audience, adding value to the conversation. We didn’t interrupt, we didn’t sell. We saw what was culturally relevant, did the hard work of adding context to it, and we shared it. And then it got shared.

Content is currency in the social ecosystem and brands that can develop quality content will earn trust by being part of the conversation in a very real, practical way. This pattern of listening, learning, contextualizing, publishing and sharing has earned us cultural relevance to millennial audiences in a variety of industries.

It makes a statement: We’re here, we’re listening, we care, we want to add value, and we’re not trying to sell you anything. That’s a recipe for building trust.

Q: What is the number one takeaway to keep in mind when targeting Millennials?

A:  Earn trust or die. Millennials are the driving force behind the shift from an attention-based economy (i.e. companies who can get attention will get share of mind and share of wallet) to a trust-based economy (i.e. companies who can earn trust will earn share of mind and share of wallet.)

What is the practical implication? Companies need to stop acting like faceless corporate entities and start acting like people. It’s about humanizing your brand by being transparent, being thoughtful, being respectful, and being a good digital citizen.

As SVP of Strategy at McMURRY/TMG, the country’s largest independent content marketing agency, Andrew develops and executes award-winning digital content marketing strategies for brands and organizations of all sizes, ranging from the Fortune 500 company to the nonprofit down the street. He’s passionate about earning audiences, creating community, and achieving business objectives for organizations by harnessing the power of content and technology. Andrew established McMURRY/TMG’s Content Velocity discipline, which builds relevance for brands through real-time content creation, powered by social journalism. Also, he’s a giant media nerd and was a sociology major for a semester or two.

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