Millennials Research Offers Insight for Network Marketers

There's the joke passed along by a top executive at an out-of-home media company that with cell phones proliferating, phone booths in Manhattan are simply ad platforms disguised as phone booths. It's a good thing for network marketers such as NBC, which is now blanketing them with banners for new fall shows such as "Prime Suspect," pay phones that often don't work will be sticking around.

Yet, while ads on the kiosks (along with bus sides and taxi tops) apparently still work, new research suggests what amounts to free media is increasingly critical in jumpstarting interest in the new season among a coveted audience.

To be sure, the study results may be intuitive, but validation never hurts. In this case, there's some evidence that putting up a Facebook or Twitter page is necessary, simply because it commands respect. A TV show without one - and really there aren't any -- loses credibility among a younger set and some cool factor goes away.

The study is not limited to TV and deals with brands in a variety of fields. But, there are directional conclusions to be mull over.

A third of millennials (16-to-34 year-olds) say when a brand uses social media, they like it more. And 53% say they like visiting a brand's presence on Facebook or Twitter.

That's not to say, the content on the sites doesn't matter. Marketers clearly need to navigate the balancing act between promotion and added value to win over skeptics -- a sizable 31% of millennials say they find brands on the two sites, and other social-media platforms, "annoying."

The research comes via an online survey conducted jointly by Kansas City agency Barkley, Service Management Group and Boston Consulting Group delving into multiple aspects of millennial behaviors. It surveyed about 3,900 millennials and 1,130 non-millennials (Generation X, baby boomers and an older "silent generation").

Barkley will host a "Share.Like.Buy" conference Sept. 22-23 in San Francisco and offer more insight into the results there.

The research indicates Facebook offers a hub for dedicated fans, which could be more beneficial for niche cable shows than widely targeted broadcast content. An estimated 13% of millennials say they interact with a brand they like - whether it's by viewing video, checking out commentary, etc. -- on Facebook once a day. About the same amount say multiple times a day.

As far as on-air promotions - the most effective way to promote a show - millennials not surprisingly appear tougher to reach. That's based on data showing about 25% only watch TV 5 to 10 hours a week. About the same percentage of non-millennials view between 21 and 30 hours.

With so many millennials watching TV online, networks may be missing a chance to plug more shows by slotting in more promotions in the online streams. But, programmers are mindful of limiting commercial loads, although that has been increasing, so the need to maximize ad dollars may carry the day. Perhaps over the next few weeks, networks should consider paying for spots there, even if NBC has to pay

The research suggests one tactic to build viewer loyalty for successful shows should be further emphasized. That's ramping up some sort of viewer-rewards programs accessible through Facebook (some advertisers have tried it).

Surprisingly, 45% of millennials say "they go out of their way to shop stores" with frequent-buyer rewards programs, compared to 34% of non-millennials. One would think the older crowd would be the coupon collectors. Would that extend to a free-episode view on Amazon?

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