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A small shift makes a big impact with millennial women

March 16 2016

Sara Frey

Millennial women grew up hearing that they could do anything they set their mind to. They weren’t told that their place was in the kitchen, or that they could never be in charge. While Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and members of the Silent Generation waited decades to see a woman on the Presidential ballot, more than 16 million millennial women have had the opportunity to vote for a woman in their first Presidential primary.1

Because of differences like this, a millennial woman’s view of her place in the world is different than her grandmother’s, her mother’s, and women born only a decade earlier. As a result, her perspective has taken on a different tone. And so the conversations we have with millennial women must also be different.

As marketers, we’ve seen the way women are addressed in advertising transform from competition to empowerment to celebration. When Dove launched its “Real Beauty” campaign in 2004, its goal was to tell women that they were beautiful. When Always launched its “Like a Girl” campaign in 2014, the message took on a very different tone. The girls featured in that spot weren’t wondering if they were beautiful, strong, or capable of doing anything. They already knew they were. And that is the real beauty of this generation.

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In order to truly connect with millennial women, marketers need to stay in tune with their perspective as perceptions and realities continue to shift. When you understand your audience’s position and engage them in the process, you’ll be able to create effective advertising that is also culturally relevant.

In the latest iteration of Keds’ “Ladies First” campaign, Girls actress Allison Williams packs for a beekeeping adventure. There is no voiceover to tell you that Keds thinks this adventure is a good idea. Or that Williams can handle it.

“The story is inspired by Keds’ target audience of young women. The adventure, itself, is what they’re excited about. It shows that she’s going where she wants to go and is doing it on her terms,” said Jonah Bloom of KBS, the agency that created the spot.2

Rather than assuring consumers that they can do anything they want, Keds supports their decision to do what makes them happy. And it seems to be working. According to analytics from the objective social analysis site Social Mention, Keds receives a sentiment score of 10:0, meaning the brand earns positive or neutral comments in social media 100% of the time. Since launching the Ladies First campaign with Taylor Swift as spokesmodel, Keds has demonstrated its understanding of how millennial women see themselves and their future.

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Like Keds, marketers looking to engage millennial women in this way should pay attention to the voices of their generation. Look to Lena Dunham and what she is doing with the Lenny newsletter. Pay attention to Emma Watson and her role as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and founder of the HeforShe campaign. Read Rookie magazine and get up to speed on the thoughts of Tavi Gevinson. And when you start to feel disconnected, check out Notorious RBG, a millennial-run Tumblr account and book dedicated to feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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In order to connect with millennial women in meaningful and authentic ways, we must draw from their experiences, rather than their predecessors’. We must craft campaigns that reflect their ideals and expectations. We must redirect the conversation from telling women that they can do anything to telling them that they should do anything they want. It may seem like a small shift in terms of messaging, but it is a change that is worth making.

Reminding millennial women that they have the power to choose their path – and that you support their journey – will bring about a big shift in terms of engagement.