Brand Laryngitis: Losing Your Voice to Millennials

Brand Laryngitis: Losing Your Voice to Millennials

By Jack Holt, Mattr CEO

It’s not much of a secret anymore: Kids don’t trust what brands tell them. Think back to your teenage years — when your parents told you to do whatever. (You’re the parent in this scenario, by the way.) Why is this so different? Because by 2020, those kids — millennials and Gen Zs — will spend $200 billion in the US. Also by 2020, Gen Zs, (kids born after 2000), will comprise 40% of our economy (source: Nielsen).


So if you’re counting on digital, social, or TV ads to get your message through to consumers, you’re liable to be shifting uncomfortably in your seat when presenting to the CMO.

But you have messages to get to your consumers, and budget. And now you’ve resigned yourself to the eventuality that you have to use a different voice than yours. What will you do? There are some effective strategies emerging but let’s look at some current ones.


Native Advertising

Budgets for native blew up last year. The Daily Beast saw a 50% increase in brand requests for native ads from 2014–2015. You’ve surely seen these articles or videos thinly disguised as editorial content. Maybe they are labeled, “sponsored content”.

Regardless, the “savvy-cynicals” have already stopped clicking. A survey by Trusted Media Brands found a small reduction of brands planning to use native this year. Are they just tapping the brakes? Doubtful. Track Maven found that, although brands increased these ads by 78% in 2013–14, interactions declined 60%.

Your target audience is desperately seeking authenticity and native content is a big Authenticity-Hole. Because you’re trying to trick them, doing your brand more harm than good.

There are a few other techniques brands are trying with some success.

Rick Prefers Hyundais. So You Should, Too

Seeing an obvious product placement in a show like the Walking Dead never fails to get an eye-roll in our household. And our 16-year old is an expert spotter.


It’s not that the Hyundai brand is diminished in our daughter’s rolling eyes but rather it takes away from our enjoyment of the Dead. The content quality is diminished. As shows like the Walking Dead grow in power, product placement may have a limited life.

It’s a distraction, especially when done to levels of hilarity, as it was done in Chuck: Subway hits you right in the salami:


How do you feel when you watch ads like this? Convinced? I really think brands want to be subtle in these kinds of placements but just can’t help themselves. And exclusivity is usually the norm; rarely do you see shows featuring both Apple and Windows computers. At Mattr, we run into this a lot with our brand-clients and it can make sense — but only when you’re promoting genuine, authentic content. And there are ways to do that.

Celebrity Endorsements

One of our founders, Kyle, likes to say, “the more reach, the less authentic”. This talks to the celebrities who post things on social that are obviously inauthentic. While this isn’t always true, it does make you wonder why a tech brand would hire a notoriously non-tech celeb to post on their behalf.


Celebrity endorsements are the Superbowl ads of Influencer Marketing. Some say Influencer Marketing got its start when PR pioneer Daniel J. Edelman had Nolan Ryan pitch Advil. But we know that celebs had been shilling for brands for decades over radio and live TV before that.

There is a way to speak to millennials but it’s expensive and hard. Far harder than loading digital content on a Mar-tech platform and hoping for one person out of a thousand to click through.

Influencer Marketing / Brand Advocacy

It just makes sense, doesn’t it? You may have already posted a glowing review of a recent flight or a selfie with your new headphones. You truly love the product and want to tell the world. But brands receive thousands of mentions each day — a lot of complaints but some bytes of praise.

When a brand is able to sift through these and determine how to make these advocate impressions scale, the brand voice will have a future. Imagine buying as many impressions from authentic users of your product as you did that ad you ran?

The two things that successful influencer-advocacy campaigns have in common: 1) a great product; and, 2) great tools. We’re working on the tools. Together, we’ll give you a voice in the future.