Monday 7 September 2015


It is very interesting how a vast majority of brands have approached millennial marketing through the years. With all the pressure to produce sensational, ‘viral’ content and, altogether, justify marketing budgets, it is understandable that brands now have a bad case of approval addiction.

One of the ways brands try to reach their audiences – especially millennial audiences – and most notoriously (but not exclusively) on social media is by tapping into cultural references, news stories, slang expressions and even memes. This approach is expected to make brands more relatable, and add a personal touch to corporate organisations. When done right, the impact can be and is typically fantastic.
However, when done wrongly, trend-jacking can also damage your brand. It annoys people who feel strongly about whatever story or trend you try to hijack for your own purposes. It angers users who perceive you as trying to score bonus points on a piece of news that has nothing to do with you. And, what is worse is that you put yourself at the risk of coming off like a dad who is trying very hard to be cool, using words like ‘on fleek’ ‘bae’ and ‘YOLO’ and obviously doesn’t get it.

So, how do you avoid all of these risks and use trends in the right way? Tectono Business Review reveals the following points:

When you peel behind the layers of brands who try way too hard to own social commentary, you find that these brands have yet to find their unique brand voice. When you locate your ideals, voice and, overall, tone, it will be a lot easier to decipher what trends and references suit your brand and, ultimately, what would interest your audience and allow your brand to be the best version of itself. Next, and this is no doubt the most important, consider the meaning behind any trending event or hashtag.

Is it a story that incites debate or split your audience into two sides? Is it humorous and light-hearted? Is it a political, cultural or sensitive subject such as sexuality, racism or feminism? Probably, it is best to avoid it, unless you want your business to take a stand

Think of it this way: if your brand were a person, would he/she convincingly be associated with the subject? If your company has a ratio of 98:two in favour of male as employees, it is probably best to stay away from a #BeingFemaleInNigeria hashtag. If your company is the leading manufacturer of fizzy drinks you probably don’t want to be caught around a healthy eating meme, an auditing firm probably has no business jumping on a hashtag about the MTV awards, unless you have something highly clever to say.

This is not to say that brands should not put their unique spin on social issues or that brands should not optimise trends and try to be cool. By all means, they should. However, brands need to be true to themselves first. Remember that from the moment a brand is born, it begins to take on a personality and it cannot, therefore, shed that personality overnight with a lone campaign. There are brands that can easily lend their voices to race and diversity or adopt burgeoning lingua (like ‘gerrarrahia’) because the essence of their brand is not disconnected from the trend.

The focus therefore should be more on authenticity and keeping it real as opposed to creating false impressions and nudging your brand too far down the ‘what’s trending’ ladder. Like any other demographic, millennials respond to marketing that tells a story and tells it well.

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