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Marketing to Millennials in a Data-Driven, Post-Campaign Era

The challenge is to break through the overcrowded personal junk filters set by millennials with relevant, targeted, valuable and non-promotional interactions.

Katie Kutsko

With the influx of mergers-and-acquisitions activity in the marketing technology industry, there is a clear demand for technology that enables brands to more efficiently and more relevantly engage with their customers.

This demand stems from an important transformation currently taking place in the minds of the current and next wave of consumers regarding how they choose to interact with brands.

With digital channels, social media and mobile communications, today’s millennial generation in particular orchestrates its own experience. Millennial consumers no longer follow predetermined, linear routes from exposure to conversion to brand advocate; rather, they utilize a variety of on- and offline channels to start, stop, rejoin and jump engagement levels, carving out highly individualized paths to purchase.

As a result, the conventional marketing funnel is now irrelevant and traditional campaigns are extinct. Forrester Research has even reported that we’re moving into a “post-campaign era,” where people despise and distrust push-style marketing methods that interrupt or intercept them — 49 percent of consumers don’t trust digital ads, 38 percent don’t trust emails, and 36 percent don’t trust information in branded apps.

Today, marketing success depends on customers seeing, engaging with and sharing content within their trusted social networks. No one is waiting to be wooed by elaborate campaigns. The challenge for marketers, then, is to break through the overcrowded personal junk filters set by millennials with relevant, targeted, valuable and non-promotional interactions.

To prepare for the customer of the future, there are a few things that marketers should start thinking about now. First is determining a strategy for collecting and using customer data.

Of course, brands must always ask customers to opt in and respect preferences regarding interaction platforms, frequency, etc. — but if they are just collecting data and adding it to a database, they’re on their way to extinction.

Brands must instead view customer data strategically, as a key source of intelligence for hyper-segmentation and targeting. Done right, targeted marketing messages add value for customers. Done wrong, they can come off as invasive.

Even though many millennials are aware of the information being tracked about them, 60 percent are more likely to share this personal information with a brand they trust, and 54 percent will share more data if it means more relevant offers for them.

These numbers are proof that using customer data deliberately to deliver messages that are consistent, considerate and relevant can build the kind of credibility that matures into brand advocacy.

Another consideration is the ability to foster customer relationships versus tracking lead numbers in the funnel. Because customers are constantly bombarded with marketing messages, they now view brand interactions through a curated lens, a large part of the reason that email blasts from purchased lists, generic content and company focused information are likely to be ignored.

To combat this, CMOs must redirect efforts to initiatives that not only build awareness, but also cultivate referrals. Brands must determine where their customers are, and then meet them there. This involves leveraging social intelligence capabilities to listen to, understand and analyze customer data.

With this level of intelligence, organizations can effectively predict buying and brand advocacy across the entire customer journey. The result is a personalized customer experience and relationship, rather than one-off, irrelevant campaign offers.

Reporting is also a critical element in the post-campaign era. Marketing operations must be agile to reinforce what’s working — and to immediately reconfigure what isn’t.

Now that technology can be programmed to manage the mundane, more and more consumers are focusing exclusively on what’s fresh, innovative and worthwhile. When tracking data daily, the right information will yield the right offer at the right time. Don’t wait for an end-of-the-month post-mortem on your efforts. Review the data daily and adapt. An agile approach will help messages stand out and remain relevant at every touch point.

As millennials gain buying power, earning their trust will be crucial for marketers. In the future, mutually rewarding customer relationships will vastly outperform campaigns, and as a result, one-way, mass-market spam campaigns will become extinct.

It won’t happen immediately, but CMOs who work with their brands to shift focus from a campaign approach to one keyed in on the customer experience will see the most success.

Tomorrow, successful brands will be using data-driven marketing to direct their efforts to deeper, more customized customer experiences fueled by interactions that are ongoing, cross-channel, timely and useful — and that’s why CMOs need to start thinking differently today.

Paige O’Neill is chief marketing officer at SDL, which provides technology and services to optimize the global customer experience. Reach her @paige_oneill.

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