Like a lot of mid-20s millennials, all I seem to do these days is attend weddings. At a recent reception, the young bride and groom ditched the DJ/band expense in favor of an iPod. There was no “Shout” or “Electric Slide” or James Taylor. Instead, the playlist was a soundtrack to the last decade—and it was great.
All right, so maybe it wasn’t ideal for the non-millennials. Watching retirees swing dance to “All The Small Things” reminded me of the embarrassing disconnect some brands have with the millennial demographic. Smart companies know Generation Y represents a third of the American adult population, but understanding this diverse market is a rare challenge. In order to stay up to date and speak the millennial language, here are a few strategies successful marketers are using.
Talk Like a Taco
Over the last half decade, Taco Bell has pushed all its chips in for millennials. In fact, in 2014 the fast-food chain axed kids meals to help it become a more “Millennial edgy brand,” according to its CEO.
So how does a giant brand, with a distinct target on millennials, better understand the demographic? For one, Taco Bell is so dedicated to learning the language, that its headquarters has a “Millennial Word of the Week.” The terms are curated by a group of 20-something staffers and an email is sent out to the company. The words are also posted on video screens around the office.
Wild, right? Imagine getting a work email defining the phrase “on fleek” to mean “on point.” And then imagine your 41-year-old CEO, Brian Niccol, incorporating said language in a presentation to investors and analysts. Except Niccol, bless his heart, said “on cleek.” The next day his social media team told him he was close, presumably followed by “dat PowerPoint tho!”
Increasingly, other marketing teams are taking a Rosetta Stone crash course on millennial-speak. A study late last year looked at the use of “bae” and “fleek” by 14 major brands on Twitter. Across one month, more than 17,000 mentions featured one of those terms in posts about the brands. Taco Bell topped that list, with 4,800+ mentions of “bae/fleek,” good for 1 percent of their total mentions in that month.