In 2004, the skincare company Dove came up with an incredible concept: Showcase women for who they are. The Dove Campaign for Real Women was born and it went viral via mass media on a global scale. A paradigm shift was born, as ad campaigns were created not with super models, but with everyday women of all shapes and sizes. This concept struck a nerve and the campaign continues to be a marketing sensation.
If you’re on Facebook and you’re not familiar with the Humans of New York (HONY) page, go ahead and like it. This social-media phenomenon has grown its following to over 12.6 million in a few short years. The content on HONY that’s taken the social media world by storm is nothing more than stories of everyday people. Creator Brandon Stanton simply takes photographs of people and publishes a paragraph about them. That’s it. No staging, no makeup, just everyday people going about their everyday lives. Turns out we all have a story, and we like listening when the stories are unfiltered and authentic.
HONY’s success is a clear illustration of the most important lesson in marketing today: Be authentic. Being you may not seem like enough, but it is. In fact it’s more than enough.
At this moment, the millennial generation (born between the early ‘80s and 2000s) has surpassed the baby boomers to become the largest living generation in the world. In the U.S. alone there are more than 80 million millennials, and they now lead consumer spending in the all-important 25-34 age demographic.
Millennials are our number one target market for skydiving, and the best way to reach them is not to show them what we do, but to showcase who we are. Why? Millennials are the most educated generation in the history of the world. They are digital natives who haven’t needed to “adapt” to the use of e-mail, social media, blogging or even smartphones. This savvy generation has been bombarded by the noise of mass media and, frankly, it turns many of them off.
Millennials are experiential; they value living full, vibrant lives—a life philosophy that doesn’t necessarily correlate with their income level. They are, in fact, the most debt-laden generation in history, due in large part to student loans. Their financial situation makes them very selective about where and with whom they are willing to spend their money. Millennials actively seek out businesses they feel a connection with; they’re not simply looking to buy a product, they’re looking to cultivate a genuine, authentic relationship with the people behind that product.
The most effective way to cultivate this sort of relationship with your customers is through the use of social media. Let’s look at a few examples of people in our industry who have built strong social-media followings simply by being themselves: Regan Tetlow and BSM writer Sydney Owen-Williams.
Regan is not a millennial, but he knows how to maximize the power of Facebook by being his fun and zany self. Following Regan on Facebook is almost like watching “The Truman Show;” we tag along as he documents the world through his lens with short 30-second video observations nearly 20 times a day!
As he goes about living his life in Dubai, trying to climb the ladder of becoming a professional presenter, we feel as though we are on the journey with him; we empathize with every success, let-down and humorous observation. The only way that anyone gets away with posting more than 20 times a day is by being authentic.
Sydney’s blog offers something that’s totally different: vulnerability. We instantly connect with Sydney because she is real with us. Her thoughts are raw and unfiltered as she shares her life journey as an entrepreneur and her obstacles and victories of being a skydiver. The honesty with which Sydney shares her story is refreshing and it allows her to break through the noise and stand out.
The majority of drop zone owners are not millennials and many will find this amount of “openness” uncomfortable, but it’s something that must be considered. Pulling the curtain back and allowing our customers to learn who we are as people will go a long way toward cultivating trust with millennials. I encourage my DZ clients to use their websites as platforms for connection; publish bios and photos of the owner(s), showcase your instructors and staff, allow your customers to get a sense of who the skydiving professionals behind your operation are.
The marketing world has entered a new era and though it remains important to present ourselves as professionally as possible, it’s equally as important to showcase the humanity behind the jumpsuit so we can better connect with our customer base.
Perhaps Mark Sunborn said it best: “Customers don’t have relationships with organizations; they form relationships with individuals.” Let’s be better about being ourselves.
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