Hint for reaching millennials: don't call them millennials!

  • by June 21, 2012

In a seminar called “Millennials and the Future of Creativity,” the first thing director Jon Chu pointed out is that this rather optimistic group probably hates being called “millennials.”  That said, Stephen Friedman, the president of MTV, explained that what separated the M's from Gen Xers, who want to isolate and be alone, is that this generation “craves community and connectivity.” He said that for MTV, there has been a “massive payoff in giving millennials a participatory role in creating content and products for our brand.”  He also said that for popular shows, like “Teen Wolf” advertisers are saying ‘how do we have a 52-week a year, 365 day relationship with the audience?”   

The panel included Selena Gomez, the 20-year old singer, actress (Disney’s “The Sorcerers of Waverly Place) and sometime main squeeze of Justin Bieber who, despite arriving on two hours sleep, was incredibly poised, gracious, and articulate, as if a 40-year old brain had been implanted in her freshly-coiffed head and then attached to her cute gold beaded top, torn-jeans, and gold high heel- wearing body.  

 Real-life millenial Gomez talked about the importance of communicating with her fans. "The number one thing is being relatable and authentic," she explained, adding the ”easiest way to get connected with my fans is Twitter and Facebook.” (She has 23 million Twitter fans.)  “The first part is getting on stage and performing. It’s amazing how performing on stage can connect you with an audience. And then Twitter allows you to hear from your fans individually-- one voice, one opinion.” She said her Twitter followers were “completely  included in my clothing line and in the making of her perfume.  “We flew 10 fans in from all over he world to help me figure out the notes in my fragrance.  

MTV’s Friedman talked a bit about the importance of the second screen for millennials: he said “audiences expect a utility,” speaking of the company’s incredibly popular “watch-with” app. He also stressed the importance of customizing content for each platform. “You can’t presume to have the same voice on Tumblr that you do on Facebook," he said, "or you will look ridiculous."

The incredibly mature Selena said she’s now taking a break from music and concentrating on film. When asked who’s career arc she is following, her answer was a surprise: Shia LaBoeuf or Ryan Gosling, because it’s all about separating from her teenage image. “They left Disney and went on to do more grown up stuff, and made great choices in the movies roles they took.” 

Finally, for those who don't have Gomez' career or choices by the age of 20, Friedman acknowledged that this generation is hitting the hard wall of a bad economy just as they get out of school.  “They did everything right, he said. “They got the education they needed. They understand that to succeed, they’ve got to hustle. They might have to create a job and invent the job they want... to take a scenic route through all sorts of jobs that will help them get to the next level, as opposed to Gen X complaining about dead end jobs.”

 Friedman talked about their fabled non-stop attachment to their phones and iPads.  “Millenials say technology is power. They are reinventing systems and hack it in a way that makes their lives easier. 11 percent say it makes them anxious. 89 percent love technology.” And he mentioned that the “Number one thing with this generation is creativity. Make them part of the collaborative process. Listen to young staff on your teams. Share your input.” He said that MTV has a “millennial mentors” program, pairing young staffers with older higher- ups. He said that once Millenials feel loyalty to a celeb or a product,"they will pay you back in spades."

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