Millennials are willing and eager to share personal content (as long as it's relevant) and ultimately crave authenticity. Yet with 83.1 million millennials in the United States, their voices are often underrepresented within typical marketing research forums. So, how do we win their trust and engage them into the marketing research process? With access to one of the hardest to reach populations, VICE Media, the world’s preeminent youth media company and content creation studio, has created a platform that offers it all to millennials: experience, authenticity, engagement and social activism. Through the VICE Voices panel, we're now capturing the opinions of today's influencers and trendsetters. Julie Arbit, VICE Media's Vice President of Insights, shares her thoughts on challenges of making research relevant to young generations.
Question: Under the influence of mobile and millennials, the meaning of now has shifted to mean ‘all the time’ or ‘whenever I want.’ How does VICE retain audience loyalty and engagement in today’s mobile environment?
Answer: We acknowledge that our audience consumes content whenever and wherever they are, and we create our content to fit that behavior rather than trying to drive them to another location to consume the content. This means we create content for each platform that makes sense for the experience a consumer expects to have in that platform.
Question: What are the challenges VICE encounters with audience engagement? How are you tackling these challenges?
Answer: Everyone is vying for millennials’ attention, and that attention is already spread thin – fragmented across screens, many at the same time. Some may argue for keeping the content short for millennials’ limited attention spans, but we’ve analyzed our content and found there is no correlation between length and engagement. There is no secret formula for creating engaging content. We simply tell stories. These stories are immersive and provocative and human. They are stories no one else is telling. If the content is good, the audience will stay engaged as long as it takes to tell the story.
Question: When it comes to embracing millennials’ perspectives, this demographic brings a new level of transparency and accessibility to marketing research. So why do brands have difficulty connecting with this audience?
Answer: Brands often project an image of perfection, with all decisions happening in a boardroom behind closed doors. In a world where sharing all parts of one’s life on social media is the norm – the good and the bad - millennials understand that no one is perfect and no one can succeed in a vacuum. This includes brands. When brands try to keep up this façade, millennials are the first to call their bluff. This is one of the reasons VICE Voices is so exciting to us. By speaking to millennials in a way they can understand and relate to, and sharing some of what goes on behind the scenes, we’re able to engage the audience that research panels and traditional methods of market research have struggled to connect with.
Question: In 2020 millennials will account for 50% of the U.S. workforce; however, millennials only stay at an employer for fewer than two years. From your POV, how can brands and employers meet the needs and behaviors of this growing and influential population?
Answer: It’s not just the workplace millennials are quick to leave if not satisfied. But this generation should not be seen as fickle - it’s not for lack of commitment, but a lack of value they are both providing and receiving. Money is not their main motivator or measure of success. Employers need to embrace their individuality - their uniqueness is one of the biggest assets they have. Give them a wide range of opportunities to learn and grow, both professionally and personally, and the ability to have an impact in the organization and beyond.
Question: What is the biggest challenge market research faces in engaging with millennials?
Answer: Flexibility. Data and data collection can feel inflexible. Researchers want to ask the same questions in the same way from the same sample source in order to feel comfortable with the results. But the world has changed and continues to change at breakneck speed. If market researchers want to be able to collect any data at all, we have to keep up. The more we force the old methods the more we lose these young generations. Research needs to be adaptable. We need to think about the way people engage with the world today – mobile, short, entertaining, informative. Thinking of respondents as humans rather data sources will help market researchers get people engaged in research and glean more interesting results.