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How to Use Storytelling and User-Generated Content To Engage With Millennials

By Alexandra Dupuis-Buske on Dec 22, 2016 3:52:11 PM

No matter what type of business you're in, there is a good chance you are already trying to figure out how to engage with Millenials.  Not only are they the largest target audience, but they've also got the largest purchasing power.Don't believe me? In 2014, Millennials accounted for 36.8* of the Canadian workforce. That's more than Boomers and Gen Xers.

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And their spending power? In 2016, it was estimated that Millennials "represent an estimated $2.45 trillion in spending power and have overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest, most influential group in terms of consuming and employment." - Huffington post.


You might be wondering what strategies and tactics might engage us (yes, I am a Millennial myself) and get us to buy into your brand. The short answer? Tell us your brand story in an effective manner and let us be a part of that story. 

Engage With Millenials  by Telling A Story

So here it goes: I've been bombarded with ads for X, Y, and Z since I was born. You think you're sick of ads? Just imagine how I feel! If something sounds like a traditional ad (X is the coolest toy you could have this Christmas, or Y is just what you need to be healthy, etc.), my brain will shut out the *noise*.

Harsh right? Not really...

The reason you've failed to capture my attention is that I can't relate the benefits you've listed to the good it can do in my life. You want to get my attention (and other Millennials), tell me a story. Preferably of someone I can relate to!

The stronger emotions you can give me with the story, the more I'm willing to listen.


If examples and general direction are what you need, consultant and storytelling  Mark Evans has great content on his blog to help you plan your storytelling.

The canvas he has created can help any business develop better stories for their brand. He divides the canvas to help better understand each aspect of the creative process for storytelling, with categories such as: 

  • Why Storytelling?
  • Commitment
  • What's Your Story?
  • Channels
  • Target Audience
  • Your Storytellers
  • And more.

 This is a great starting point to developing your brand story, and can easily be understood by most marketing agencies and departments. 

Looking for more?  You should read Chip and Dan Heath's book Made To Stick which says that ideas that stick are Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional Stories. 


Leverage User-Generated Content

When you want to tell an engaging story, it is best to tell it from the point of view of the main character.  The best way to get a story from the user's point of view is to ask the user to tell their story.

Not enough people are willing to take a chance and let users give their true opinion of their brand.  If you break it down, there are two things you are always going to get back:

  • The positive (the content you want): This is the content you want to share with others, the content that shows your brand in a story with another individual. It brings out authenticity in the brand, and improves user acceptance.
  • The negative (the content you fear): The fear of negative feedback or backlash is what's fueling the fear of opening up the conversation with your followers. But what is there to fear? Odds are, if one person has a negative attitude about you, they're either a unique case, or there's more than one person with this problem.  If there is more than one person with this problem, choose to see this content as a way to improve your brand, business, and strategy. It's a lot less scary this way. 

So tell me again why we should fear user generated content? You get the point. (I hope)

As I've said before, the authenticity that arises when you let user-generated content be part of your content strategy is really powerful for connecting with everyone, and not just Millennials. 


A good example of a great user-generated content campaign that found a lot of success was the Starbucks Holiday Cup campaign. Customers were asked to to doodle on their cups, and submit a picture. The winners would be featured on a limited edition Starbucks cup.



This strategy not only tells a story about Starbucks and its creativity, but also showcases the talent of their audience. Here in the office at Cyan, our designers fit right into Starbucks' target market. They are most likely to go enjoy a nice PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) from Starbucks, rather than go to another coffee shop. It's no wonder so many great designs have been doodled on these iconic cups.

The biggest pain with engaging Millennials is letting go of the idea of control. If you want them interacting with you, you have to allow them to submerse themselves into your brand. Be ready to share the good moments, be ready to solve the bad moments.

As authenticity and Millennials become the main focus in 2017, consider having storytelling and user-generated content as part of your content strategy in 2017.


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Topics: Marketing Strategy, User Generated Content, Storytelling

Alexandra Dupuis-Buske

Alexandra Dupuis-Buske

Alexandra is a Marketing Millennial with a passion for meditation and yoga. For years she's found joy in helping others find the right solution for their needs.