As I promised almost one month ago, I am posting my next Word-of-Mouth Wisdom interview with Kelly Mooney, President of Resource Interactive.  Kelly gave a groundbreaking presentation on the Millennials in her Annual Summit keynote last year.  I decided to revisit this topic, as well as her upcoming book, which I was interviewed for (and I posted that interview in April).


1. Please define "Millennials" and provide our readers with links to your research on them. 

I’d refer your truly curious readers to Litmus, Resource Interactive’s white paper on this economically influential but somewhat mystifying generation of consumers. You can also see a slide summary of the presentation and hear the millennials in their own words at our MySpace page

Born between 1982 and 2000, digital millennials, as we refer to them (they detest the moniker Gen Y as it implies some similarity to Gen X) grew up while technological convergence was making its way across giant industry sectors and small digital devices alike. Small wonder, then, that digital millennials’ lives are also blending formerly discrete spheres such as private and public, consumption and production, entertainment and education, socializing and creativity, shopping and self-actualization. 

As a result, marketers have to rethink how brands must follow suit and be a thorough blend of commerce and culture.  This is, of course, why there’s no end to the talk about content—what value to assign to consumer-created content, how brands can provide content—beyond slogans and jingles—to the moderately-connected majority of people online who can “resell” the brand message if sufficiently informed.In terms of psychological makeup, millennials are a fascinating generation, and inspire radically diverse opinions. Most demographers anticipate great things from them due to their optimism and social conscience—but not all. Some researchers believe millennials’ heavy reliance on digital devices for socializing and their parents’ non-authoritarian and indulgent child-rearing styles have bred attitudes of extreme self-entitlement and have stifled their interpersonal skills.Our research led us to formulate five millennial ‘demandments’ that play to their needs and wants:  KEEP IT REAL (wow, can they detect inauthenticity), HEAR ME OUT (they have a high regard for their own advertising savvy—and have been taught teamwork at school), BE ORIGINAL OR DON’T BE (novelty has grown in importance because it keeps commoditization at bay and fuels the influentials’ social credibility), MY WAY NOW (instant gratification doesn’t seem unrealistic to this generation), and ENTERTAIN ME (fun and funny are the two killer apps for a media-clogged world).


2. How will brands market to them when the Web is completely ubiquitous and mobile?

Millennials’ social lives we know to be mobile phone-intensive—they’re tethered to their handsets—and with national wireless programs catching on, their world will soon be one giant ‘hot spot.’ This means marketing can accompany millennials everywhere. But there are new rites, rules and priorities. Here are a few:

  • Be real-time because millennials are attracted to spontaneity as an antidote to their overly scheduled lives.
  • Invest in geo-targeting. Devise marketing—and pop-up retail events—that support the sudden convergence of cell phone-communicating people.  If you don’t know the meaning of ‘swarming’ or ‘twittering’, (folks communicate where they are and what’s going on by text messaging…) you have some millennial homework to do.
  • Always be permission-based. A web-everywhere world holds great potential for the abuse of consumer intimacy. 
  • Support co-shopping or social shopping because millennials confer with friends on their path to purchase.
  • Make your marketing pass-along worthy.
  • Be open to consumer participation in your brand.


3. Your new book, "The Open Brand", is coming out soon.  What are the top three lessons for marketers in "The Open Brand"?  Are we in the midst of a permanent shift in marketing?

Absolutely. The shift has already occurred, but marketers haven’t quite caught up to the reality. We’ll experience it full-throttle in the next few years.

As for the top three lessons…really, Brett, there are four. In a web-made world, “open for business” doesn’t mean what it once did. In fact, it now means “never closed.” But we think today’s brands need to go beyond the traditional hours-of-operation and instead hang out a sign that proclaims them to be truly O.P.E.N. These four lessons are handily summarized by the book’s title: brands have to be O.P.E.N.—On-demand, Personal, Engaging, and Networked.


Today’s consumers want—and often get— whatever they’re seeking “right now.” In a world where instant gratification is a way of life, on-demand is consumerism taken to its logical extreme. The timeline of desire to decision to purchase to acquisition is now condensed to a fraction of the old standard, fostering an immediate, intimate connection between brands and consumers. Of course, being an on-demand brand isn’t easy: The logistics, infrastructure and resources needed are infinitely complex, from just-in-time inventory systems to online order/in-store pick-up services. But brands can no longer opt-out of being on-demand if they want to capture the hearts and wallets of today’s quicksilver consumers.


It was easier to address a homogenous audience when consumers were merely consuming. But shortly after the web proved itself a serious channel for both brand-building and direct sales, it became the teeming province of the people, not marketers. Millions leave traces of their individuality every minute, everywhere on the web, and even when forming an ad hoc consensus about products, services, or issues; even when helping to build Web 2.0’s architecture of participation, their voices and interests are irrepressibly distinctive. An open brand gets personal—not with one market of many but with many markets of the one—through constant consumer dialogue and the latest in cross-channel profile management that brings the brand closer to consumers’ real-time needs and wants.


Brands used to compete primarily with each other for consumers’ mindshare, but they now have to share the spotlight with creative consumers, whose post-prime time long tail of personal narrative, mixed media entertainment and worldly appetites writ large make a TV spot look static and solipsistic. Marketers have to study what engages the masses, and how it is made meaningful through high concept and high touch, then apply this to brands in a bid for their own place in the social web. Interactivity holds a key to deeper consumer absorption in a brand’s value system, so open brands should start here: with the sine qua non of digital marketing.


A single consumer has exponential brand potential when she goes online. She has a potential lifetime value, as she always has, but she also has viral value as she engages with her various online communities. Open brands become part of social networks by marketing to the niche of communal consumers who interact with other, like-minded consumers online. Though niche marketing is hardly new, the exponential network effect of online word of mouth marketing is. So the more the brand works the network, the more the network works for the brand.


4. Do you think marketers will ever figure out how to advertise on social networks? 

Of course! But not without the loss of a few jobs…and the creation of a few new ones. It’s not a lack of imagination that has created a gap between marketing and Web 2.0; it’s the infrastructure of our entire industry that has slowed us down a bit. Reorganizing even the nimblest agency around consumer involvement means conceding some creative rights to outsiders.

It’s a different paradigm. It’s not traditional advertising, but consumer-endorsed media. It’s where the consumer is out there placing the ad for you—through the tools the brand provides—whether it’s wallpaper downloads on a MySpace page, etc. 


5. How will they do so without violating the space?  Aren't these forums ad-adverse by the nature of the visitors, who are there mainly to "hook up" with friends (i.e., isn't it kind of like advertising in a dorm room at a party)?

Social networking is in its infancy as a medium. It will undergo the same changes other media undergo in our long tail economy—once critical mass has been achieved, or the hits have been proven, there’s a splintering of interests—and consumers. Take, for instance, a social networking site based on postings of the 43 things people want to achieve in their lifetimes. If one of the more popular goals is to learn a foreign language—how far is the leap from this to foreign language learning products? The majority want to vacation in Paris or Mykonos? Enter travel companies with relevant messages. And, if those companies are successful, consumers will port those advertising messages into their social networks.


6. What kinds of new advertising do you think user-generated content will lead to? 

We’ll see a gradual shift away from anonymous spokesperson endorsements to icitizen endorsements. Icitizens have used Web 2.0—and the democratization of fame/celebrity—to create their own personal brands. Those (what we call ‘elite’) icitizens who have achieved a significant following achievable only online (where sufficient popularity breeds more popularity) are, literally, the next face of your brand.

We’ll also see more emphasis on narrative, homegrown and marketer-produced, that celebrates consumers’ customization of a brand for their personalities and lifestyles. Advertisers won’t talk the talk of a car or an audio system being right for ‘you’—the homogenous audience—because no one believes in that monolith anymore.

Last but not least, we’ll see campaigns based on a tighter integration of consumers’ desire to create, share and influence—the three dominant social web behaviors—and marketers’ accommodation of these behaviors through digital DIY tools—widgets, cut-and-paste mashup materials, blog toolkits w/built-in RSS functionality, etc. There won’t be a pre-built campaign; there will only be these personalized permutations.  


7. What do you think about Pete Blackshaw's new marketing framework?

Well, we love it because we have a similar chart in The Open Brand

Contrasting Open With Closed


8.  Which brands already embrace the principles you lay out in The Open Brand

We cite over 20 examples in the book. Here are just a few:
Webkinz® from GANZ, is not simply a line of collectible stuffed animals, but a toy phenomenon triggered by the appeal of its personalized online playground. Each stuffed animal (enjoyed primarily by kids 5-11), comes with a secret code. When kids type in their unique codes at, they receive a pet avatar that looks like the stuffed one they own. The kids also gain access to KinzCash to create and furnish rooms, and buy food and clothes. Kids see Happy, Healthy and Hungry meters for their “pets” that let them know if they’re taking good care of their pals. Additionally, kids can play arcade games to win more KinzCash to support and accessorize their pets, and can chat safely online with friends using stock phrases (without revealing any personal information).

NIKE, one of the most recognized sports brands in the world, is expanding beyond its long-time strategy of endorsing celebrity athletes; it’s getting personal with everyday athletes. With NIKEiD, consumers can express their personal style by customizing made-to-order shoes, apparel and accessories. Nike’s teamLOCKER site invites sports teams to collaborate on customized products, enabling voting for best individual designs for group purchase. And, Nike+ sneakers, in combination with Apple’s iPod nano, provides a personal trainer of sorts: The shoe’s sensor communicates via a receiver plugged into the nano and a voice (male or female option) describes the runner’s stats, calories burned, and distance remaining. The system even provides a motivational boost by playing (pre) self-selected power songs. Runs are automatically tracked at, where discussion boards, school challenges, and consumer-recommended runs around the globe can be found.

Pontiac teamed with Yahoo! to launch Pontiac Underground, a new online destination for Pontiac owners and enthusiasts. In response to a Yahoo Autos study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates that found that 94 percent of respondents who use the web said they believe consumer-generated content is an important source when making buying decisions, Pontiac wanted to support and connect its existing but disparate communities. Pontiac Underground centralizes Pontiac-related content from various Yahoo groups such as Flickr (photos), Yahoo! Answers, and Yahoo! Video and integrates links from outside Yahoo! in conjunction with its “Inside Track” blog and other social media tools. The site also offers RSS feeds of user posts from niche advocacy groups into the broader clubs area of the site.


For more words of wisdom from Kelly, I highly recommend her blog, one of the few I regularly read. 

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