CommonSense Blog

Millennials Unplugged: The Facebook and ARF Sessions

By Aaron Strout | Nov 11, 2015

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of sitting in on a panel titled, Millennials Unplugged: What Are We Learning from Millennials? Moderated by my colleague, Bob Pearson, the panel was part of an event put on by the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) and hosted at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. Joining Bob on the panel were Natalie Malaszenko, SVP of Marketing at Overstock.com and Founder/Provocateur of MoStrategy, LLC, Maureen Craig.

Bob-Natalie-Mo panel

As the title suggests, the focus of the panel was what we (brands/marketers/communicators) can learn from Millennials. It’s clearly an important topic due to the fact that in the U.S., Millennials just overtook Baby Boomers as the largest demographic in the country. This not only changes the way marketers need to market, but also how employers think about the needs of their employees. I spent a little time covering this very topic in one my recent Marketingland articles discussing the real meaning of what it means to be “mobile first.

During the panel, Bob asked (and occasionally answered) questions of Natalie and Maureen. All three did a great job keeping their answers informative and pithy. A few of the key soundbites I took away were:

  • Millennials want to engage with brands differently. They are willing to do it emotionally.
  • It’s important as a brand to have heart, soul, purpose when story telling with Millennials. The key is to the find balance of analytics/insights with gut instincts.
  • Bob mentioned a recent article where Ben Silbermann, CEO of Pinterest announced the visual search tool for the social image site making it a “search engine for experiences.”
  • Metrics are important to understand how customers are consuming content along their journey – but how does this impact how we measure?
  • With so much data, importance on using gut to guide is stronger than ever. Also critical to look at how the consumer’s (and in particular, Millennials) media is shaped.
  • At the end of the panel Q&A, Bob referenced the impetus of the panel which is a blog series he created with his 19 year old daughter, Brittany. The format for Millennials Unplugged is that they pick a topic and then both answer from their own points of view, often with other Millennial voices pulled in.

For the second half of the panel, Bob fielded audience questions through a tool called Pigeonhole. Not only was it a cool technology but made it easy to field questions from the audience in an orderly and weighted fashion (the audience gets to vote on the relevance of each question).

Here were a few that piqued my interest:

How has cutting the cord impacted TV advertising dollars when engaging Millennials?

  • Mo – Millennials get a kick out of Boomers and GenXers anachronistic use of tv (similar to land line phone).
  • Natalie – key word is storytelling. Ads need to be created with storytelling in mind and that ads could/should have life beyond tv.

Beyond the headlines of 3-second attention spans and lack of brand loyalty, what are some positive opportunities for marketers in learning from Millennials’ habits and expectations?

  • Natalie – key is to enable Millennials’ behavior vs. trying to change it.
  • Mo – takes offense at the idea of a three second attention span (not accurate). She thinks of Millennials as t-shaped – tremendous depth and huge reach (via new social/digital platforms). Can apply what they’ve learned from Call of Duty to shopping for groceries. What can we do to congratulate that and take advantage of that?

How do you value sharing vs. reach & frequency?

  • Natalie – don’t diminish importance of reach and frequency but sharing is the ultimate metric. It is a sign of passion.
  • Mo – her company is constantly looking at what it takes to encourage a climate of sharing.