Last week, I attended the Innovation and Entrepreneur talks at Northside Festival held in Brooklyn.  My task: gauge where companies are in the marketing world.

One recurring theme in all the marketing discussions was the “mysterious millennial.” As a nineteen-year old and sophomore in college, I found this semi-amusing, because I am one of those elusive millennials. Although I – like any other individual – have been subject to various marketing techniques (40% off sales, Ads on Facebook, Instagram pitches), I’ve never thought about what goes on behind the scenes for these various campaigns.

One talk, hosted by James Allen from Mic and featuring Anne Gherini from 5by, Yashoda Sampath from Huge, and Marlowe Williams from PepsiCo, was all about how to market to the Next Generation. Hearing these three incredible women from top-tier companies discuss how challenging marketing to the millennial is, made me think what a pain in the a** we are. I know that I can, at times, be slightly difficult (reference: my parents), but me times 75.3 million other millennials… Well let’s just say difficult wouldn’t quite cover it.

DSC_0020 2

(from left to right: James Allen, Anne Gherini, Yashoda Sampath, Marlowe Williams)

So, on to marketing to this incredibly large, demanding, and complex group we call the “millennials.” There are a few pointers I took away to share with you today:

Mobile.

The first point that all three ladies agreed on was that targeting the millennial means going mobile. It is more important to have a mobile presence than a desktop presence, and so Sampath argued that companies should first think of how an ad looks on a 6 inch mobile screen before thinking desktop. On the other hand, if a company does have a desktop website, it has to be good – or you will risk losing followers. Did I mention we’re difficult?

Only the best.

Scaling down the physical space of content down to a mobile screen should not equate to lower quality imagery. Because millennials are so accustomed to their mobile screens, Williams described, they likewise expect to receive just as high-quality content as on a desktop.

Short & Sweet.

Ever heard that millennials have low attention span? Williams asserted that it’s not a lack of attention, but rather (along with the Mobile fad) that millennials have a greater filter – swiping by items we find insignificant, and honing in on the very important ones, like jumping baby goats. Long messages are more likely to be disregarded.

Trust.

Developing trust is incredibly important, and one way brands are doing so is by utilizing “influencers:” individuals with a strong social following, including prominent YouTubers and bloggers. These social media influencers are the “new type of celebrities,” described Sampath. When an influencer who genuinely believes in your product promotes it in an honest way, the results have been phenomenal. I can personally attest to this method as useful, as I have followed the recommendations of some of the popular YouTubers and bloggers myself.

A good website can also be equated to trust. Millennials have spent copious amounts of time online, browsing various interfaces, and they know when a site is legitimate and when it is not. If your site looks somewhat sketchy, you simply won’t gain traction.

Transparency.

Millennials are incredibly perceptive to lies (perhaps from years of practice of their own…). Trying to hide that something is sponsored is just not smart, and will lead to people feeling cheated. Branded content is not bad, however, and Sampath stated that when a company or influencer is upfront about sponsorship, people are more receptive.

Authenticity.

Along with trust and transparency comes authenticity. But as Gherini described, being authentic on social media is challenging because it’s not necessarily intuitive. Her suggestion was simply to give it a shot. See what people respond well to on the various social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Gherini also warned not to do anything forced, because just as it is with trust and transparency, millennials can feel when something is not genuine.

Experiences.

Williams remarked that millennials desire unique, real-life experiences, and so PepsiCo has invested in advertising via sports games and music festivals. But because millennials have grown up with technology, there is also a need to incorporate a digital aspect into these real-world experiences. For example, PepsiCo may host a music festival, and have large screens on the grounds with live streams from other festivals across the world. Or, as I also noted at Northside Festival, audience members were constantly tweeting about their experience during whatever live production was occurring. This is a generation that shares everything, making experiences no longer limited to a set local and time.

Whereas all these points are all valid and implemented in 5by, PepsiCo, and Huge’s marketing strategies, they are not all inclusive. The “idea that millennials are a monolithic group,” described Sampath, “is a lazy fallacy.” In fact, she pointed out that 45% of millennials are parents – clearly myself, as a sophomore in college, compared to a parent of two kids, will have a very different perspectives, requiring different marketing techniques. So while these points are very useful, it’s good to keep in mind that to reach various groups within the larger millennial group, adaptions on these general techniques is advised. These basic rules, however, are a good start to beginning the conversation with millenials.

Best of luck!

10303748_698170836905270_2457188496569236763_n Lydia is a marketing intern this summer at pymetrics, and a current  sophomore at Scripps College studying Science and Management with a  stress in biotechnology.