The DBS Foundation held its second regional summit for social enterprises in Jakarta this week, drawing entrepreneurs and investors from Southeast Asia’s thriving start-up scene.
The summit explored how social enterprises can make a profit and improve human and environmental well-being. With a growing amount of evidence suggesting that purpose-driven businesses attracts Millennial customers and employees, business models were picked apart by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and marketers to reveal how some of the world’s most recognizable brands put purpose at the center of their business model.
Already the largest segment in the U.S. labor market, millennials will account for more than half of the world’s working population by 2025, with around 58 percent living in Asia. In an age where trust in institutions is low and firms are struggling to differentiate themselves, brands who want to reach them must define their purpose by making a positive impact through their business.
Here are five ways to engage millennials by leveraging social value and digital media.
Focus on Your Mission, Not the Beneficiaries
When an organization aligns its mission with a social or environmental cause, the focus must remain on its mission. Many philanthropic ventures and charitable organizations, by their nature, place donors at the center of attention. But when the message detracts from the cause, millennials simply don’t engage. Private companies also fall into this trap by placing too much emphasis on the organization itself instead of the problem it’s trying to solve. The role of communications is to find creative ways to serve both customers and beneficiaries, without diverting from the social value that’s being generated.
Social Media is a House Party, Not a Night Club
Brands must earn attention on social media by scanning the environment, interacting with their audience and producing content that is memorable. Although paid media is playing a more important role online, users will often switch off when intrusive videos or irrelevant messages appear, turning their attention, instead, to another screen or app. Brands cannot simply show up to the club in a flashy get-up, skip the queue and land the best seat in the house. Social media is a house party where personalities stand-out. Engage your audience first and figure out the issues that are important to them. Dare to be different and arrive with a story that inspires them.
How You Tell Your Story is Everything
Mobile is the screen of choice for millennials with around 1.5 billion smartphone users in Asia-Pacific. Although access has never been greater, attention spans have diminished significantly, with an average of 1.7 seconds afforded to mobile content and less than one second spent on news feeds. Millennials are speed dating with stories, meaning businesses have a window of about 3 seconds to insert their key message. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a demand for longer content. The Dove* “Real Beauty” campaign garnered millions of views on its 3- to 6-minute videos, and the Kony 2012 video stunned pundits with a length of 30 minutes. There is a demand for high-quality, long-form content, but brands only have a few seconds to stop millennials from swiping up. Place your key message at the start and tell a story with depth and substance.
In line with the Edelman’s Trust Barometer, millennials are skeptical of institutions and values confirmation from their peers. Purpose-driven businesses need to involve millennials in the process by demonstrating how their business addresses the problem, why it matters and what they can do about it. Many for-profit and non-profit social businesses have created online platforms which use real-time data to show how they’re generating social value. Impact trackers, inspirational content, and social experiments can create lasting engagement around your business, but customers are ultimately your best ambassadors.
Many of the speakers during the summit were Generation Xers, reflecting on the days of awkward phone calls in the family kitchen and late fees on video rentals. In contrast, millennials grew up in a world of instant gratification and are used to brands competing for their attention. Authenticity and social value cuts through the noise, builds trust and improves brand recall. Purpose-driven businesses must align their vision with their customer’s, create meaningful impact, and deliver it in a way that’s authentic.
Patrick Stafrace is a senior account executive, Reputation, Edelman Indonesia. He is also a proud millennial.