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3 rules of marketing to the always-on generation

How can you hook a Gen-Y customer for life -- in 140 characters or less?

It ain't easy -- but the age-old principle holds true: know your audience. For many companies, that audience is Generation Y, which represents both their current (and future) customers, so smart marketing with those Millennials now can yield invaluable loyalty later on. But their brains function differently than their parents': Short and sweet is the way to market to these folks. Marketers, then, need to trim down and tailor their message.

That doesn't mean Millennials are immune to messaging -- it simply means that they process a lot of rapid-fire content from multiple sources and derive meaning from it in new ways. "The human brain is wired to adapt to what the environment around it requires for survival," Amber Case, CEO of mobile application Geoloqi, wrote in a recent study conducted by Pew Research. "Today and in the future it will not be as important to internalize information but to elastically be able to take multiple sources of information and synthesize them and make rapid decisions."

Confused? Don't be. Here is a quick look into the brains of the always-on generation:

They aren't tone-deaf

According to a recent national survey, 97% of young adults between 18 and 29 have cell phones and 84% use social networking sites. In short: they talk, text, and tweet 24/7. For better or worse, they're in the know -- sometimes even before you are. Keep this in mind when you're setting goals for a campaign. Make sure your ideas are fool-proof because if they're not, they can backfire. It's no longer all about the product -- it's also about the tone, says Barry Chudakov, a media and brand consultant and founder of Sertain Research.

"Tone is as important as the message itself," Chudakov says. "Your tone must be useful or reliveant to your target audience: you have to know them, live and breath them. When you create a message there are so many touch points you have to be aware of and clued into. A brand's tone of voice is what gives it authenticity."

They're fast, but not forgetful

Immersion isn't a new feeling for Gen Y. As Chudakov says, "we're always immersed" these days. To create what Chudakov calls "breathing techniques," a brand must hone in on keywords. As Case explains, "Memories are becoming hyperlinks to information triggered by keywords and URLs. We are becoming 'persistent paleontologists' of our own external memories, as our brains are storing the keywords to get back to those memories and not the full memories themselves."

While the memory of Millennials is jam-packed, that doesn't mean your message will get lost in the shuffle. If you are able to accurately target a few words or phrases that resonate with them, they will be conjure a positive memory around your company, and, hopefully your product -- so stay ahead of their game.

This week, Taco Bell became the first major brand to join latest photo-sharing application SnapChat. For now, at least, when you think SnapChat you think Taco Bell (and the new product it reintroduced vis SnapChat). Millennials, of course, inherently appreciate the ones that get there first -- giving Taco Bell some serious publicity.

They care what their peers think

Of the reported 1.06 billion monthly active users on Facebook, many spend multiple hours each day on the site -- uploading and creating. With this type of reach and growing engagement, it seems clear that today's social networkers want to stay connected. They want to share ideas, likes, and dislikes.

"What we seem to know about Millenials is that they are intensely interested in what other Millenials are thinking and saying. They dont live in the isolation of individual perception, they're involved in the collective perception," says Chudakov. "A brand must develop an evolving trust over a particular issue. Get into their commentaries and their friends' commentaries. Listen to the feedback that they give each other and be a part of it."

The advantage here is that marketers can invite their customers into the conversation -- let them move beyond the 140 characters for you. Once you've harnessed a core group of loyal Millennials, they will be happy to do the footwork for you and open the conversation even more. Plus, it's easy for them to do -- all they have to do is click a button or press send. Empower them, and you empower your brand.

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