What do millennials want?

Image via Adweek
Image via Adweek

Speakers from four of the biggest companies in the digital sphere – Facebook, Pandora, Snapchat, and Twitter – offered expertise on marketing to those elusive millennials during a panel at ZenithOptimedia Group’s Mobile Day in New York on Tuesday.

Why the specific focus on this age group? While earlier generations were receptive to traditional print, radio, and television marketing, today’s young adults have eschewed regular channels in favor of social and streaming media.

The speakers at Tuesday’s event suggested learning about millennials’ digital media preferences would assist companies in building more effective ad campaigns.

Here are some of the panelists’ insights:

1. Maintain authenticity by marketing locally

Young adults hate feeling like they’re being marketed to, according to Steve Hwang, Snapchat’s Director of Operations and Strategy. Instead, they want to follow content their friends post.

“Authenticity is really important, and I don’t mean in terms of pretending to be [someone’s] Facebook friend,” said Hwang. “There’s a ton of opportunity for brands to be involved on a more local level in the real world.”

Snapchat’s Live Story feature, for instance, curates users’ similar content into a single stream for other Snapchat users to follow. Earlier this week, the company presented “Mecca Live,” combining content from users who traveled to Mecca during Ramadan and allowing non-Muslims – who aren’t permitted in the city – a rare glimpse inside.

2. Determine your creative strategy with data

Tamara Bedrosian, Pandora’s SVP of Consumer Packaged Goods Sales and Strategy, opined that data should determine the direction of an ad.

Should a campaign run on mobile or desktop? To answer this question, advertisers could learn that young millennial women like to listen to YouTube violinist Lindsey Stirling on Pandora, and the vast majority are listening on Pandora’s mobile app. By tracking data like this, a company can gauge the best platform for a campaign.

“We don’t go out with mobile-first or mobile-only strategies,” said Bedrosian. “Tailor your creative message to the environment and mindset.

3. Seek out new social celebs

“[Social media stars have] followers and a social graph that is far bigger than any celebrity out there,”  said Stephanie Prager, Agency Development Lead at Twitter. She added that these are the figures with whom brands should align when advertising.

Big brands get it. This year, Toyota tapped YouTube stars Rhett & Link to film stunts in its redesigned Camry. In about six months, the video had garnered a mere 75,000 views on Toyota’s YouTube channel, but the online celebs further increased brand awareness when they mentioned the new Camry during six episodes of their daily Good Mythical Morning YouTube talk show, gaining an additional 10 million views.

4. With video, think seconds, not minutes

Videos on Facebook are set to auto-play by default, so advertisers have precious few seconds to grab users’ attention. “You have maybe the first three seconds to stop people in their feeds to get them with a piece of content,” said Trevor Johnson, Director of Facebook’s Global Agency Team. Because of this small window of opportunity, Johnson advises marketers to create four-, eight-, or 10-second videos. Users activate volume once they click on a video, making it more likely they will watch longer clips if interested.

While all the panelists had varying methods of targeting young adults, one of Johnson’s sentiments summed up the direction of marketing in this era: “Millennial behavior… is really driving social and technology behavior going forward.”

It appears the coming years will bring audiences ever more innovative ways to consume advertising.

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