Brands Missing Out on Segments by Misunderstanding Slang

Kimberly Surico |
 06/17/19 |
4 min read
Brands Missing Out on Segments by Misunderstanding Slang

Many brands are ‘living their best life’ these days thanks to social media, while others are left languishing and wondering why they can’t connect.

Brands miss out on key segments when they misunderstand audience interests and modes of communication, including slang, imagery and emojis – and the context wrapped around each. This is unfortunate because there’s a pretty simple fix!

Let’s explore it, highlighting the slang masters themselves: millennials.

Millennial Marketing Mojo

Brands envision creating connections that will solidify their standing as the ‘greatest of all time’ in a given category, but end up trying too hard and completely (and awkwardly) miss the boat. And much like our goat with sunglasses imagery above – they look desperate and detached to their target audience. And that’s the worst look to have when it’s unintentional.

When intentional though, it’s hilarious:

There’s an art to marketing to millennials, a mojo of sorts, and it revolves around understanding who they are beyond the stereotypes (for starters).

These consumers, born between 1981 and 1996, are unique individuals who brands mistakenly lump together, assuming they’re all about being on their phones and supporting whatever social cause via slacktivism. Or, busy conforming to this lovely ‘who’s who’ list of stereotypes:

Chevy attempted to make light of the stereotypes, but the ad had the opposite effect and devolved into a parody, of sorts – and then an actual parody was made about it.

It seems Millennials aren’t keen on advertising that panders while claiming not to. Who knew stereotypes were a touchy point with them? Sentiment could’ve sleuthed that one out pretty quickly:

But that’s far from the worst example.

Oh Yaas, They Did

Microsoft made a majorly cringeworthy attempt to attract interns by sending the following email to recruits:

There are more than 75 million of them, so assuming millennials all about the latest buzzwords is flawed logic. And it also overgeneralizes the slang each segment is using, as segment is legion – and fluid.

Not every millennial speaks of food in terms of “hella noms,” nor do they all use “bae” as a term of endearment. One could even wager it’s more like “not many” out there communicating this way, and especially not when it comes to potential career communications.

Slang today is just as weird as it’s always been, except we have it coming at us with greater speed, much like everything else online. And, today’s slang is pretty salty. It leaves little room for error, with ridicule of ‘out of touch olds’ as a favorite past-time for the younger set, just as it has been for every younger generation. The difference today, of course, is that the ridicule can quickly go viral and cause a major headache for a brand that has not done its due diligence.

Understanding slang, emojis and imagery may feel like a fleeting endeavor – and it is, but it’s also important as it’s not going away. Keeping track of your audience’s specific conversations, including its slang and other nuances requires moving the needle beyond capturing surface demographics. How?

Capturing psychographics is key to doing this effectively.

Psychographic Understanding

Psychographics, this next-level AI-enhanced snapshot, aggregates a significant volume of opinions, attitudes, feelings, values and behaviors of consumers in relation to your brand, and also around the larger category your brand inhabits. Also, it captures where in the world these voices are located, as well as emerging influencers:

The most valuable insight comes from capturing consumer insight ‘in the wild’ and learning what these targeted audiences are discussing beyond your brand so you can better understand who they are. This offers meaningful ways to connect with them without tired buzzwords.

And as you explore your category, you can include or exclude different terms to help more finely define your search and “clean” your topic:

Much like any audience, millennials aren’t all one thing, and finding commonalities to help you define new audience segments based on shared interests and passions is powerful.

Applying that Power to Strategy

Santy, now part of Riester, a full-service digital marketing firm, was able to help a major airline identify perks that were meaningful to young business professionals, as well as this segment’s preferred social channel.

These discoveries informed the airline’s strategic planning for long-term growth. And you can be sure that offering them “hella noms” would not have offered the same results.

A huge part of that discovery process includes capturing context – and that can be challenging when sarcasm, emojis and slang are ever-changing. And make no mistake – context is super important in any language.

You have international audiences to keep in mind as well, with their own set of slang to consider and sort out. Antonio Banderas offers a primer on some Spanish slang below:

So, as much as brands need authentic social ambassadors to keep them in touch with certain segments, of equal importance is having a tool that can parse hidden meanings in language and capture context. And one that allows deep exploration to confirm the root of a sentiment and the true intent, usage and desirability of specific slang words before a brand allocates budget toward following a faulty strategic marketing path.

Properly interpreting the context of those words is certainly doable – don’t dare use them otherwise! Brands should be connecting with target audiences, sans creepily calling them “bae” – unless, of course they are. Though, they just might develop bae-level loyalty to your brand if you get the sentiment right!

Reach out for a demo geared toward strategizing your brand’s best life online, with a psychographic exploration that will knock your socks off!

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