The following was written by Juliana Wu, Marketing Intern at LiveIntent during the summer of 2014.
Usually, it’s considered rude to be on your phone during a conference, but at Youth Marketing Strategy – New York ’14, audience members were encouraged to tweet to their hearts’ desire throughout the program. The presence of Twitter and other forms of social media were commonplace (at the end of one panel, the speakers got together to Instagram an Ellen-inspired selfie) as key players behind some of the most influential ad campaigns in recent years, including the Arby’s/Pharrell Twitter pseudo-feud and the Red Bull Stratos project, had all successfully utilized social media platforms to deliver their campaigns to the youth demographic – what would be commonly referred to throughout as “millennials.”
Ironically, I was one of the few millennials present in the audience, and it was a surreal experience listening to presentations that reduced my generation to numbers and patterns.
To most of us, a millennial is anyone between the ages of 20-32. But to today’s marketing experts, millennials are a demographic that touts creativity and favors unique, engaging experiences. We are a generation that accepts nothing less than absolute transparency and authenticity from brands. The speakers unanimously agreed that what sets me and my ilk apart is a collective need for instant gratification and social sharing. The birth of social media, coinciding with our coming of age, has fostered an indomitable need to communicate – to hear and be heard, no matter where or when.
If a product can be shared with our network and get us likes and retweets, we’ll love it that much more. Sure, we like taking photos and filtering the stuffing out of them, but the real reason we do it is to interact with our peers. Social media was thus presented as the primary channel in which the youth market could be accessed.
Marketing to millennials, they said, would be a whole new ballgame.
Statistics and polls were presented on everything from what percentage of millennials would advocate brands (85%), to what marketing tactics were most successful (confirmed: everyone loves a good sale and samples). Others pointed out popular digital trends brands could implement on social media platforms to appeal to younger consumers, ranging from the clever usage of gifs to creating viral videos.
As unnerving as it was to be put under the microscope, I couldn’t deny the validity of the presentations. Yes, if an advertisement featured music I enjoyed, I would be more likely to listen to that brand’s message. OK, if a brand commented back on my tweets, I would feel a more personal relationship with them. And if all my friends recommend it, I’ll probably buy your product. But while many themes rang true, I’m not sure I agreed with everything said.
First of all, a few speakers assumed that in the age of social media, email was a dying art – we at LiveIntent can assure you it’s definitely not! And while all speakers touched upon how the right marketing could cater to facets of the millennial experience, I questioned whether these traits were exclusive to just millennials. The speakers had undoubtedly diagnosed what marketing strategies young people were most receptive to, but I felt like they had actually captured the preferences of a much broader audience.
Perhaps the channels for reaching consumers have evolved, but I wonder if the core values that consumers are responsive to have remained very much the same. Whether we’re Generation Y or Generation X, we all search for brands that will honestly and thoughtfully engage us beyond the immediate functions of their product. Social media may change the way marketers and consumers interact, but what I took away from YMS14 was that effective marketing is still about building active, attentive relationships with your consumers, regardless of age.