Ready to tap into the $600 billion spending power of the millennial market? Despite widespread eagerness to gain this generation’s business, many companies forget to thoroughly learn its complexities. In turn, their campaigns backfire, branding the company as inaccessible or outright offensive. The following are four failed attempts to tailor campaigns toward millennials. Take a look at how they missed their mark.
1. Microsoft’s “Internapalooza” Campaign
These days, tech companies aim to attract fresh talent to the office by transforming their workspaces into trendy professional paradises. Microsoft sought to go a step further by adding slang to a colorful email sent by a recruiter to potential interns. It was clear that the recruiter using the words had only a vague idea of how the words were used. Injecting words and phrases including “hey bae intern,” “hella noms,” “dranks” and “beats” came across as a desperate attempt to connect with young people. Microsoft later apologized for the email.
2. McDonald’s “Create Your Taste” Campaign
If a company would like to know what millennials want, they should ask, right? The New Zealand branch of the McDonald’s franchise thought so. They launched a campaign wherein customers designed and named their own burgers before sharing their creations on the McDonald’s website. Quickly, participants flooded the site with impossible custom sandwich designs: “Bag of Lettuce” (only lettuce), “The Carbonator” (only buns) and “The Nihilist” (no ingredients whatsoever). Many others bore racist or politically incorrect names. Naturally, the anonymous, unmoderated platform enabled offensive or otherwise inappropriate content.
3. Pepsi’s “Live for Now” Campaign
Empowering ads become easier to find each day. Unfortunately, Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad was not one of them. In the commercial, youthful, smiling protesters marched as they held up signs with culturally tone-deaf calls for people to “join the conversation.” As the protesters reached a police barricade, Kendall handed a Pepsi to a police officer and everyone cheered. It was heavily criticized for making light of the struggles of Black Lives Matter, an organization known for marches met with police brutality.
4. Chevy’s “#HiddenGems” Campaign
In the 2015 campaign for the Chevy Trax, Buzzfeed writers cruise LA, Brooklyn and Chicago in search of the ultimate selfie location. The problem is that the stereotypical selfie-obsessed hipster comprises only a small percentage of the millennial market. In fact, this generation is the most racially and culturally diverse. Targeting the stereotype didn’t resonate with the larger population.
Millennials are an elaborate target audience with impressive spending power. Building long-lasting relationships with this generation means taking time to demonstrate a deeper understanding of its intricacies.