When it comes to understanding younger consumers, there aren't many experts better than Matt Britton. He's the founder and CEO of MRY, the agency devoted to building youth-focused creative marketing solutions for big brands. Britton is also the author of the new book YouthNation: Building Remarkable Brands in a Youth-Driven Culture. In his book, which recently hit No. 8 on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list, Britton presents a strong case that Millennials have the power to disrupt everything from business to culture to politics.

Want to start understanding younger consumers? Here's some wisdom drawn from YouthNation and the mind of Britton:

1. Don't Advertise to Millennials, Engage Them.

Any brand that really understands younger consumers must figure out how to offer them value, on their own terms.

Britton tells Inc.: "You can't just continue to push advertising messages into their faces, trying to get them to buy something, because most young people have adopted media consumption technologies to avoid exactly that."

Television is a good example, as younger consumers are adopting multiple television substitutes, such as Netflix and Hulu, to avoid commercials whenever possible.

2. Experiences Are Highly Valued.

Instagram has been on fire in the last few years. Its growth has been predicated by the desire of YouthNation to share their experiences, often in real-time. While Instagram filters are less in vogue than they used to be, they allowed users to turn even everyday experiences into beautiful images.

Instead of feeling like an amateur photographer, the Instagram user base has opportunities to feel like artists. This has fueled a rapid appreciation for experiences--and brands can take advantage of this trend by opting for creative, unique activations, as opposed to pure product giveaways.

3. Brands Are Like People.

Just as people like Kim Kardashian, for better or worse, are becoming known as brands, so too must brands mimic the attributes of people to become better known. Today, people expect to hear from brands directly, so they must sound engaging and authentic. This necessitates creating a brand persona in a way that brand managers never had to when they communicated to their audiences mainly through short advertising spots and billboards. The look, tone, and feel of a brand is critical if you want it to be followed on social media as much as top celebrities are.

4. FOMO Is Real.

Otherwise known as Fear of Missing Out, FOMO is a common term used by YouthNation. It is not just causing younger consumers to seek out more extreme and exotic festivals and trips to partake in, it's starting to affect their parents as well. The rise of social media means that we're not just having experiences for ourselves, we're having them for our networks, as we see what our social audience is up to and want our lives to be reasonably competitive.

5. Pay-as-You-Go Reigns Supreme.

YouthNation tends to have more unpredictable schedules than their forebears. As a result, they often see ongoing monthly memberships as "cumbersome and wasteful." Britton cites the pay-as-you-go model of fitness startups such as Barry's Boot Camp and Soul Cycle as being especially appealing to younger users. In fact, Millennials would prefer to overpay during months in which they're active, and not pay during "down months." The flexibility is very important and appealing to them, and brands that offer this type of flexibility will tend to fare better with YouthNation.

6. Adjust to the "Free Agency" Mentality.

As YouthNation begins to make up the majority of working adults in the U.S., a combination of their belief systems, need for flexibility, and ability to use technology to work remotely means we'll see even more of a shift towards self employment, or a work force more aligned with individual free agency. Employers need to understand this mindset and offer the types of work environments that improve productivity and result in lower turnover rates.

For a quick, breezy read that gives insights into understanding the younger consumers of tomorrow, YouthNation is a great place to look.

Published on: May 21, 2015
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