February 29, 2012

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4 Ways to Engage Millenials Every younger generation knows better. Every younger generation wants to un-do, reject, fix or repair the mistakes made by their elders. Every younger generation brings its own POV to the party. Seventy-five million individuals born between 1981-2000 grew up with computers at home and at school, are beyond the tricks and techniques of advertising and wield enormous buying power. Millennials are better educated, more diverse and better at multitasking that their Boomer parents. They’ve been indulged, encouraged, pampered and have different expectations and sensibilities than their elders. Catching their attention and involving them in a brand isn’t easy. Consider four ways to open the conversation: Give them instant access and status. Collaboration, shared responsibility and consensus constitute their worldview. Millennials want to be taken seriously and have both a voice and vote. They expect to weigh-in on the key issues regardless of rank, tenure, status or skill set. They don’t want to be bossed around and expect to be included in every relevant decision. They reject hierarchy. Seniority and tenure are dirty words. They don’t want to be bored or have to work their way up along a well-trodden path. Maybe this is a presumption unique to this generation. Though, I doubt it. It feels like the same youthful enthusiasm that newbie’s have always brought to the party. The plea for immediate inclusion, access, status and respect is characteristic of people not yet burned by the system, circumstances or peers. Vaguely socialist, it’s a good but naïve starting point. Personalize a user-driven experience. Raised as digital natives and gamers, it’s all about the intuitive experience where there are always several ways to solve the puzzle and where the best idea always wins. They want cool design and easy navigation to deliver end user benefits. And they want to be able to adjust the level, the design, the content, the frequency or intensity according to personal preferences. They watch TV on a laptop or a tablet as they text their friends, create custom iTunes music mixes and play Xbox games against unseen opponents in China. These are different expectations from Boomers or other generations. Millennials gather and process information differently. Nothing is linear in their world. They live out loud and freely share information among themselves. They embrace new technology and new devices instantly. Used to multi-media, non-linear data displays and multi-channel multi-tasking, they experience the world differently. They owe no loyalty beyond the next experience and demand constant improvement and re-invention from their favorite brands. As a result those seeking to communicate with them have to engage them on their own terms. This requires a different construction and parsing of content as well as a radically different approach toward fundamental concepts like reach, frequency, media channels and engagement. Eco-consciousness doesn’t matter. It’s a nice-to-have but not a cornerstone of their worldview. They assign the responsibility for saving the planet to business rather than to individuals. But as they better understand the trade-offs between business efficiency and ecology or humanitarian causes, they are willing to make fiscally friendly decisions. The global economic crisis forced them to recalibrate their expectations and their spending habits. Efficiency and value trump causes. Evidently, the younger crowd isn’t much different from the rest of us in this regard. They are more than happy to live in the moment and pass on the consequences of their actions to the younger generation. It’s about character not celebrity. Raised in a celebrity culture, Millennials reject direct endorsement and the cult of celebrity preferring instead to relate to the characters portrayed rather than actors portraying them. They snicker at faux celebrities like the Kardashians and discover and embrace home-made YouTube stars. Used to selecting images and qualities to represent themselves, they reject the obviously manufactured personalities shoved down their throats by media and marketers. Millennials demand the right to anoint their own celebrities and esteem peers or personalities found worthy by crowdsourcing or by other more “democratic” ways. Stars are still stars for the younger crowd with all the volatility, vulnerability and hype that goes with it. Maybe this is where social networks, word-of-mouth communication and peer-to-peer recommendations play the biggest role rather than relying on traditional tastemakers or star-makers. The younger generation will inherit our jobs and our economy. Understanding their formative experiences, understanding their needs and perspectives will determine how successful they can be at digging us out of our economic troubles, re-inventing our business models or bringing about the revolution we all clamored for when we were...
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Engagement is No Real Metric “Engagement” is being proposed as the new metric for online and social media interactions. Although not uniformly defined, “engagement” seems to be an aggregate measure of a variety of interactions, which include clicks, likes, comments, shares, and re-posts. It’s a proxy for conversion in environments where goods and services aren’t directly sold. To the old school crowd, including yours truly, engagement is measured more discretely by counting the number of people who show up on a site, view a desired number of pages, spend significant time per page and per session, and take the desired action. These “engaged” visitors sign up for a newsletter, download something, use a calculator, enroll in a class or webinar, or maybe even buy something. Part of the debate centers on a definition and the use of the term relative to media values and media buying. If someone comes to your site or onto your Facebook page, are they engaged or not? If they spend a nanosecond to click “like” or view two pages or less, are you suffering from low engagement? In the old media world, we measured time-spent-viewing or time-spent-listening and inferred engagement from lapsed time. So if Nielsen clocked you listening to Z-100 for 45 minutes between 6a and 9a, we inferred that you liked that station, probably tracked with the core demographic, probably listened as much as the average dedicated listener, and probably paid some attention to its content and the ads. All media experiences are not equal and, therefore, have different outcomes. Engagement is a catchall concept designed to obscure rather than illuminate these differences in outcomes. The engagement debate is a step in the evolution of an elusive advertising rationale to support spending money on social networks where people come to do cool things, but brands haven’t figured out a way to quantify what they do, what it means, or how to justify incremental investments. Engagement will help social networks monetize their inventory but do little to help brands understand how they are interacting with customers or prospects.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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