Why Millennials Ignore Your Marketing (and How to Fix That)

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Matt Britton is an expert in marketing to Millennials—a group that is incredibly adept at tuning out traditional media.

He is the founder and CEO of New York-based MRY—a social media agency focusing on word-of-mouth, social, interactive, and experiential marketing. Since its founding in 2002, MRY has worked with some of the world's leading brands—including P&G, Microsoft, Nike, and HP—to help them connect with younger consumers.

I invited Matt to Marketing Smarts to talk about his new book, YouthNation: Building Remarkable Brands in a Youth-Driven Culture, and to share tips for marketing to Millennials.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Companies should invest in creating brand experiences to woo the Millennial market (05:01): "Young people are definitely spending money to acquire material items, but at the same time they're actually spending more money on experiences. Experiences are really the new social currency—it's how young people are defining themselves and building their personal brands. So spending money on experiences now has become top priority. Any brand or company that's looking to market and successfully transact with a youth audience needs to be largely experience-driven...


"In the fitness space, look at a company like Bally's [Total Fitness] that's now gone out of business. Bally's looked at fitness and gyms as a means to an end. You went there, you used a weight, you worked out, and you'd leave. But now the entire fitness space is being reimagined by companies like Soul Cycle and Barry's Bootcamp and Tough Mudder and Color Run...which is a race where people show up wearing all white. They get doused with colored powder. The races are largely untimed, so it's not about winning or losing, but it's about the experience itself, and people who reach the finish line are treated to a live concert. So that's a perfect example of an industry that's being transformed by becoming experience-driven."

Experiment with new platforms Millennials love, even if you don't understand them at first (20:01): "Snapchat's a great example. Snapchat is so massive that a lot of Millennials are actually dragging out the phone icon on their phone and replacing it with Snapchat because they use Snapchat more than making phone calls, which is massive. And at the same time, a lot of brands have never even opened up the app, or maybe they have and they don't understand it, and they close it. Here's a medium that has massive amounts of engagement that's really changing culture and communication and a lot of brands aren't looking to take advantage of it because they simply just don't understand it. I think they really need to dive in and understand it themselves in order for them to really understand the implications towards their brand."

Unless your brand is Red Bull, don't build your own platform; instead, find opportunities to connect where Millennials already are (24:20): "The make vs. rent question is one that comes up for many brands. You look at a company like Red Bull and they created their own sports category called Flugtag where people push these flying machines off the side of a pier and it's become a massive event. Upwards of 200,000 people come to watch Flugtag events, which is a sport that's owned by Red Bull. So they could sponsor the X Games, but instead they create their own sport.... The fact is that most brands couldn't create their own sport and have it be successful. In most cases, brands need to figure out how to integrate to existing properties where consumers already are, vs. spending the massive resources required to create their own platforms."

To learn more, visit MRY.com or follow Matt on Twitter: @mattyb.

Matt and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

Matt Britton