By Andy Preisler published November 29, 2015

Learn How to Engage Gen C (It’s Not Just Millennials)

engage-gen-c-cover

You’ve heard of millennials, but have you heard of Gen C? They are on Facebook; they are watching YouTube videos; they are networking with their online communities.

Google Think dubs this Gen C, a “powerful new force in consumer culture … people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection, and community.” While Google states it’s not an age group, it does say that 80% are millennials.

Gen C does business differently – they’re smart and savvy, and reject the hard sell. As content marketers, if you connect well with Generation C consumers, you also connect with their communities – that is huge – because they rely on each other for recommendations and information. On the other hand, if you don’t connect well with this audience, you also risk rejection from their communities.

Gen-C

Image source

Here are five practical aspects to consider as you target Gen C in your content marketing strategy. This is not a generation that you just funnel onto your site and convince to push those call-to-action buttons.

1. Gen C thrives within online communities. They want to engage, not by forceful and pushy methods, but rather by being invited into conversations.

Apply it: Be prepared to be everywhere they are – research when and where they are online, including social media, forums, and blogs. Have conversations with them, comment on their comments and posts, provide expert advice, ask questions, etc.

TIP: Gen C is too large to encompass as a single audience. Before you can be where they are, you need to develop a persona for your target consumer. Analytics helps, but so does some good old-fashioned grunt research and smart employment tactics. How many members of Gen C are on your team? Where can you find Gen C members to survey?

In real life: A good example of a company that does this well is ModCloth, which was founded as a retail clothier for millennial women. Its team conducted lots of research, not only on fashion and style, but on exactly where those females hung out online. The brand focused on the two most-used platforms – Facebook and YouTube.

On its company page on Facebook, visitors see photos of ModCloth clothing worn by models of all shapes and sizes and of customers sporting their latest acquisitions. Comments from customers are abundant – they are really engaged.

facebook-modcloth

Relative to engagement, here are just a few of the things that ModCloth does:

  • A style gallery allows customers to upload photos in their new outfits. Other customers comment – a lot. (And, smartly, a viewer can click on any part of the outfit and immediately be taken to its spot in the catalog for purchase.)

modcloth-style-gallery

  • Customers are asked, both on the website and on social media, to vote on whether items should be sold by ModCloth. They also have the chance to win an item by naming it. Here is a sample of a winning entry:

modcloth-kitten-tea!-sweater

  • Conversations are really encouraged on social media, and it shows. Individuals in Gen C conversing with one another and making recommendations to one another is key to an important behavior in this group.

All of these activities inspire an emotional attachment and a conclusion that ModCloth is really an authentic, trustworthy retailer. In 2014, sales topped $100 million. By the way, the company has just adopted a mobile-first strategy as well – again, being where their customers are.

2. Gen C loves to share content when it is appealing – funny, poignant, relevant, shocking, and so forth. This gives them credibility and validity within their communities. They want responses and reactions to what they share. They only spread truly “shareable” content.

Apply it: Give your Gen C audience that something worth sharing – content that meets their emotional needs. Make it funny, entertaining, surprising, personal, and begging for interaction; offer surveys and opportunities to have conversations with you. Don’t forget to include content that makes them look savvy, clever, and cutting-edge within their communities.

In real life: Jack Daniel’s does just a great job in engaging its audiences in unique and entertaining ways, and asking them to participate in the conversation:

  • Jack Daniel’s Bar Stories, a microsite (also referenced on Facebook), invites users to submit their funniest bar stories and publishes their tales for all to enjoy.

Jack-Daniels-bar-stories

  • Bar-goers were asked to send photos of the weirdest bars – the winner will be featured in a new ad for Jack Daniel’s.
  • Amateur mixologists are periodically asked for new drink recipes using Jack Daniel’s. Gen C is happy to participate – remember, they want to appear savvy and clever to their friends.

3. Gen C doesn’t have a lot of time to conduct the research for trustworthy products and services, so they depend upon people they trust for information, advice, and recommendations.

Apply it: Share who you and your team are. Personalizing users’ experience with you and your brand will pay dividends. Become a community member, one of those trusted advisers and contributors. Give them content to chew on and share their responses. Remind them that you are an expert in your niche through the content you provide. Do not offer to put them on your email list – they see that as a sales gimmick. Do invite them to your blog if you have great things to share. Do provide teasers to that great content on your social media pages.

In real life: There is a reason why Apple is a leader in the phone industry. First of all, of course, it has an excellent product. Other than that, however, Gen C has come to trust the brand in part through the power of Steve Jobs. He was clearly an expert in his niche, his personal story was compelling, and every time a new product was introduced, he did it. Videos of those product introductions went viral. If Jobs recommended it, it must be good. And, as people bought each new product, all of its wonders were shared with their entire communities.

4. Gen C wants to do business with companies that make their customers’ interests and problems the primary focus, not profits.

Apply it: You should personalize content and see your content (and your brand) as a problem solver. Tell the story about how you got into business to make things better for your customers and their needs; share great photos of yourself and your team with happy customers whose needs were met. If your story resonates, they will share it.

In real life: The founders of Etsy get this. Their story is attractive to Gen C for several reasons. First, the founders are millennials like most of Gen C, and they formed the company to solve a problem for a specific community. When crafters and other small vendors complained about the treatment they received from eBay (no support, high fees), the Etsy founders decided to do it differently with significant support, including online labs and workshops, minimal fees (stores are free to open), personalized shop owner profiles, and more. Etsy’s executives want the shop owners to be successful and will help them get there. Obviously, the business model works, Etsy is now a public company valued at $2 billion.

Etsy

5. Gen C is interested in personal development and in businesses that have principles and causes. They want integrity, honesty, and commitment from a company that gives back.

Apply it: Develop an emotional connection with your audience by taking up a cause. Provide videos of you and your team participating in events supporting that cause. Sponsor campaigns related to that cause.

In real life: One of the best examples of this type of marketing is Toms. The shoe company was a relatively profitable company when it decided that it wanted to reach millennials and, in so doing, “give back.”

Toms-shoes

For every pair of shoes sold to a consumer, Toms donates a pair to a needy child. The company expanded its philanthropy into raising money for maternity health issues and clean drinking water. Sales totaled over $250 million in 2014. Here is an example of how Toms uses its philanthropic reach to generate sales for the 2015 holiday season:

Toms-philanthropic-reach

Conclusion

Understanding Generation C better will allow you to develop content that will better engage them. You can implement interaction and activity that they will see as meaningful and shareable. Just don’t ask them to push a call-to-action button too early.

If you can engage Generation C consumers successfully, you will have loyal customers – customers who will share your brand everywhere. If you are seen as a disingenuous opportunistic company, however, you will have forever lost them (and their communities).

Want to be a brand of connection with your audience? Strengthen your content marketing skills by signing up for two free courses from CMI, then complete CMI’s online training program.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Andy Preisler

Andy Preisler is an experimentator, marketer, and content strategist for GrabMyEssay. Andy is passionate about sharing his knowledge and experiences on content planning and using new techniques. Stay in touch with Andy on Linkedin or Twitter.

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  • Joan

    Very timely article, well said. I think Gen C encompasses a wider group of people. Age demographics is rapidly fading. Technology makes us ageless. Marketers need to realize they are just human beings and not perfect experts telling people what to do, like or buy.

    When you respect another person’s intelligence and go beyond their age, or invented persona you reach the person. Without this your message falls on deaf ears. Technology is helping people analyze how to relate to all people not just a generation. Soon the nine year old will explain something to you that you never understood and you’re thirty, or forty, or fifty, or sixty and now even ninety.

    Relate to each person as an individual with respect then you’ll be heard, if you have their permission.

  • http://www.globalwebforce.com/ Hitesh Parekh

    I was never aware of the Gen C hidden among the millennials market. This is eye-opening in defining their characteristics. This is where brand value proposition is your sales key to their expeirence over the hard sell as they are in the generation where they are bombarded by ads everywhere they go.