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3 Marketing Lessons I Learned From My Digitally Native Kids

3 Marketing Lessons I Learned From My Digitally Native Kids
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As millennials come of age, marketers are already on to the next: Gen Z. Post-millennial generations are changing the industry at a faster pace than ever before. Marketers are starting to see that the shelf life of their marketing plans are growing short and today, it might be the length of a six-second video or a 140-character tweet.

In order for brands to win and stay relevant with digital natives like my very own kids, they must be agile, they must be authentic and they must evolve their strategies to gain influence in an increasingly people-powered world.

The writing is already on the wall: If you think millennials are shaking up the advertising industry, just wait until the incoming generations get their time in the sun. As a father of three children under the age of 15, I've had a front row seat to the seismic changes taking place in the media and technology landscape.

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I look at the ways in which my kids create and consume media, and I am awestruck by how fundamentally different their behaviors are from my own generation (Gen X). What's even more telling is the acceleration of these behavioral shifts across my teenage daughter and my 3-year-old. Observing my kids’ behaviors has given me important context in my role as CEO of a marketing tech startup. As we partner with marketers to adapt to this new environment, I don’t have to look much farther than my toddler squealing, “YouTube! YouTube!” to see that something very big is happening in our world.

Here are three things my kids have taught me about the future of marketing.

1. Post-millennials are natural ad-evaders.

Post-Millennials know our game as marketers -- so much so that they’ve invented their own games to avoid ours. This means that our ads must be so compelling that they don’t even feel like ads (read: unique experiences, powerful branded content and the like), or we must reach younger generation consumers in new ways that look at them as more than mere impressions. By partnering with people to evoke their own ideas, opinions and stories, brands can forge deeper relationships that pay off in the long run.

My generation of boomers and Gen X-ers grew up accepting advertisements as part of the media experience. However, now, millennials have learned how to dodge disruptive ad experiences -- and post-Millennial generations are hard-wired to evade ads. A recent study by Sourcepoint and comScore found that Millennials are biggest users of ad blockers, with at least 30 percent using some form of ad-blocking software.

Today, my 3-year-old daughter knows exactly how long she needs to wait until the skip button appears while watching YouTube on my tablet. These generations don't simply endure ads or accept them as part of the media consumption experience like older generations have. Members of my generation will recall a time in which DVR wasn’t a feature in many households, but today, watching ads -- at least in their entirely -- isn’t required to view the next segment of content. Consider how much ads are devalued if getting around them is game.

Even padding the performance of display ads has become a game. My son plays online games that involve clicking ads in order to get free lives and receive other in-game features. He’s obviously not interested in the advertisers’ brands or products. He simply knows that playing the game with advertisers will allow him to continue enjoying his favorite game.

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2. Content creation is constant and so is content discovery.

Today, younger consumers spread out their media consumption across an ever-expanding roster of apps where content creation and self-publishing reigns supreme. Therefore, brands must find ways to align with influential creators in those spaces.

Partnering with these creators effectively means presenting them with branded content opportunities that are consistent with the passions and interests of their audiences and providing the creative freedom needed to produce compelling content that feels authentic to the platform.

The trend of content creation is embedded in every moment of post-millennials’ lives. Take for example my 14-year-old, who Snapchats nearly every moment of her life -- the mundane, the exciting and everything in between -- from the second she wakes up to the second she goes to bed.

With platforms like Snapchat dominating teenagers’ media time, how can marketers infuse their brand into their own storytelling and self-publishing habits? Are sponsored posts or discovery channels really enough to capture their attention when their number-one priority is to check-in on their friends Snaps? And what do we do when the next mobile video platform emerges as the must-have app for post-millennials?

The number of places where young people discover content is proliferating at a rapid pace. Decades ago, we had the major TV properties and traditional media stalwarts, but digital has catapulted hundreds of platforms and publishers to the forefront -- and these platforms are democratized in that personalities take precedent over media companies and brands. Even relative newcomers to the media landscape in the grand scheme of advertising are falling out of favor among younger generations. My teenage daughter recently lamented that she had to use Facebook for a school assignment. “So lame.”

3. Move over movie stars, hello social stars.

In today’s world, we have seen social media creators build their followings by demonstrating expertise and building up trust with their audiences. They can't sell out in the same ways paid celebrity endorsers can, but often times they carry more credibility and are more trusted amongst young consumers.

Brands need to alter the way they approach influencer marketing. Yes, celebrities still have the reach, but power is in the engagement they generate and the authenticity they wield. Marketers are accustomed to optimizing the old model -- this is what programmatic is after all -- but moving forward, the industry needs to think about reinventing the model to constantly plug into these new behavior changes in a real way.

Who are these creators you may ask. Many of them are teenagers and young adults, but marketers shouldn’t be fooled by their youth. They are savvy business people who are amassing audiences that are often much larger than those of brands and media properties. None of my kids watch television, but they could list out the top twenty Vine creators on the platform and could tell you about one of dozens of YouTube vloggers. Broad distribution approaches -- TV, print, radio -- are being completely supplanted by emerging platforms that are increasingly tailored to mobile video.

Beyond mobile video, the common theme across all of these platforms is people. Real people command the largest audiences -- not brands and media properties -- which makes for an interesting scenario for marketers who are used to buying ads to reach audiences. This trend has also flipped the celebrity endorsement on its head. Partnering with these influencers is much different than enlisting a celebrity to shill for your products. For these creators, their livelihoods are dependent on their ability to grow and maintain a large, engaged audience. Post inauthentic or irrelevant content and risk losing it all. 

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