Connecting Your Brand with Millennials in 2019

As the marketing world turns, we keep seeing new variations on an old formula:  brands talking about themselves in traditional media or using social media as a one-way platform.

Brands need to tell their stories.  No doubt.

Classic story telling used to work – whether it was clever, tear-jerking or flat out, in-your-face. However, since 2007, with the advent of smart phones and two-way connectivity, the tried and true method falls flat on millennial consumers.  You see them every day, obsessively staring at their device.  What are they possibly obsessed about?


Even though there is one selfie posted a day for every millennial, it’s not just about the selfie.

It’s about the self-marketing campaign.

Marketers need to turn the camera around and face the facts:

We are marketers marketing to marketers.

Moosylvania has been asking millennial consumers how they adopt brands since 2013.  The results are published in our annual top 100 millennial brands report. Our studies have been published in two books, The Participation Game and Join the Brand.

It boils down to four words you can use for your 2019 plans:


In fact, that should be your new marketing department slogan.

When your brief is obsessed with the brand, its qualities, its heritage and all the reasons to believe, it’s easy to forget you are marketing to the self-obsessed. Looking inward will not get to a sustainable connection platform.

Getting your story straight it definitely job #1.  And getting your best customers to become your best friends and tell it for you is a job #1.5.  On the plus side, this generation will support their friends.

Our studies are conducted by an independent research agency that begins annually with a fresh panel of 1,000 millennial consumers, providing their three favorite brands – unaided.  Just fill in the blanks.

With those three brands named, pull down menus ask how and why they connect.

Successful brands are useful to millennial consumers and help them market themselves.

In six years, it’s never been about how much brands spend.  Smaller budget brands with two-way connectivity are named consistently.  Categories like beer and telecom, with brands who spend billions don’t even make the list.

After 15,000 responses, we developed this formula:

–       Make Them Look Good.

–       Make Them Feel Good.

–       Keep Them Entertained.

If you’re not a brand that can do that, we have simple solution.  Borrow.  Partner with brands who do.  But stop thinking that one-way messaging will win this race.

Dropping points on the market with weapons of mass persuasion will make you feel, look good and maybe even be entertaining in the boardroom.

Marketers want to do what’s comfortable and most decision makers came from a time when the TV spot was the big idea that needed to “pooled” out to various formats.  Many still think of the TV spot first, then try to cram it into an Instagram post.

It was the basis of our book, The Participation Game, where we concluded that millennials don’t consume advertising, they choose to participate in brands.

The more we looked at the daily activities of this influential group, we saw them spending up to two hours a day creating their own content. And they’re very aware of their personal metrics.  They know what drives engagement and will monitor their content accordingly.

Our data showed that friends and family – people talking about a brand that they know – are 2.5x more likely to influence brand adoption than TV, Facebook and YouTube ads combined. The share effect happens and brand growth occurs, not by what you are saying.  It’s what other people are saying.  Friends of friends.

In our book, Join The Brand, we introduced this formula:

The concept is that yes, you need an original idea that is well articulated.  But after that you need to start a conversation and encourage co-creation with friends of friends.  We believe that this is how awareness and true acceptance evolve.

What’s the easiest way to break the cycle?

Ask a question.  Any question.

Stop talking about yourself.  Talk about them.

Go from one-way to two-way conversations.

Crack the friend barrier.

Once loyalists are on board, give them special treatment.  Maker’s Mark has a society and a business card for every member. Chilula hot sauce calls them Chilulians and rewards them with special limited-edition flavors.

Fans become super fans when they get feedback and feel a part of a relationship.  The more relationships your brand has, the stronger your equity.

And just like any relationship, it starts by listening.

Excerpt from Join The Brand, by Norty Cohen, Jillian Flores and Meggie Petersen. Available October 1 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Hudson News and select independent book sellers.

Norty Cohen

Norty Cohen


Founder and CEO Moosylvania.