A Winning Strategy for Millennial Engagement: Co-Creation

This post origionally appeared in the IBM Social Business Spotlight Blog

The millennial generation has been characterized in many ways: entitled, narcissistic, impatient, and unpredictable — to name a few. Are these accurate representations of what is now the largest generation in the United States, or an excuse for our inability to connect with them?

Times are changing for sure, and odds are your marketing department has been impacted by the millennial generation. Millennials have taken control over the relationship between marketer and consumer unlike any generation before them. Nearly two thirds of millennials use ad blockers, and even when exposed to a compelling advertisement, only 1 percent of this generation claims to be influenced by it.

The days of one-way marketing communication are coming to an end, and amidst all the negativity circulating around millennials, an opportunity exists that most companies have yet to capitalize upon.


A change in perspective: Millennials as creators

If your marketers are desperate for a win with millennials, they must form a new understanding of this cohort. The characterizations thrust upon them are all subjective in nature. We must ask, what do we know for certain about millennials that can improve our efforts?


They’re creators.


Millennials are the content creation generation, with 46 percent posting content online that they themselves have created. Add in social sharing, and 60 percent of millennials are engaged in the process of creating and publishing content.

Many brands are curating user-generated content and launching hashtag campaigns to engage millennials. While these approaches have been effective in generating buzz and injecting authenticity into web content, they fall short on truly satisfying this generation’s desire to create.


Co-creation: The two-way dialogue marketers need


It is no surprise that 78 percent of millennials are inclined to participate in experiential marketing. They get to participate, even collaborate, as they familiarize themselves with a brand. Your content should provide a similar experience.

According to Millennial Marketing, 40 percent of millennials want to be involved in co-creating with brands. This generation recognizes the benefits of participating in your marketing efforts. More than any generation before them, millennials see themselves in the brands to which they are loyal. Who better to become a content contributor to your business?

Think about what millennials want most: personalization, authenticity, and brand influence. The key to all of these things is their involvement. Give them a way to join in and you’ve got their attention, and, more importantly, their loyalty.

Old Spice recently launched its Hardest Working Collection, and wanted to put their new product to the test. Enter the “Dream Runner” campaign. This content experience prompts guys to run a route in the shape of something they’ve always dreamed of having.

The Dream Runner website allows visitors to plot a course, and then tracks their progress as they complete their run. If the design and execution are good enough, participants may be awarded the item they drew. The campaign has already yielded a variety of funny and creative entries.



You may be saying, “This is not the type of content we use to promote our pristine brand image.” That’s the point. Millennials don’t care about a museum-quality brand image; they want the real thing. Each of these drawings, as simple as they appear, is a result of a real experience that a consumer had with Old Spice.

As viewers navigate through the different submissions, they are not commenting on your brand. They are trying to figure out how the heck someone managed to plot out and run in the shape of a person holding a surfboard.

With a campaign such as this, you may not make a sale after each visit to the site, but what you will do is keep people engaged and coming back. If you can do that, you are on the path to the measurable results your stakeholders demand.


User-generated content as we know it today — and into the future


If co-creation is the key to engaging millennials, why aren’t more brands doing it effectively? One reason this collaborative approach has been slow to gain traction is due to the common understanding of what user-generated content (UGC) is, what it isn’t, and what your brand must sacrifice to leverage it.

The way most brands currently understand UGC is as something born of social media. That means promoting a hashtag and opening your brand to whatever content is submitted against it, relevant or not. When you think about it like that, it makes sense that brands are taking a guarded approach to implementing UGC into their marketing mix.

The reality is much different. There has been a lot of innovation in the user-generated content space in recent years. Brands can now automate content collection, directing assets to internal content management systems where marketers can moderate, edit, and repurpose submissions.

Millennials are projected to be the largest generation in the U.S. for decades to come. Additionally, this generation is becoming a globalized population, based on the 150 percent growth in the number of foreign-born members of this age group since 1980. Twenty-five percent of millennials are speaking a language other than English at home, another consideration for content producers to recognize. This generation’s desire to collaborate with brands will only grow as millennials discover new technology and promotional channels through which to communicate. For content producers willing to adapt, interesting content opportunities await.