Marni Edelhart: Hi, this is Marni Edelhart, Director of Content and Experience for the Pivot Conference, on the line with Matt Britton, founder and CEO of MRY.
Matt is known throughout the advertising industry as an expert in social media marketing with a unique and deep domain expertise in the millennial generation. Matt currently serves as founder and CEO of New York based MRY, a world leading social media and youth marketing agency. Since founding the agency in 2002, MRY has worked with some of the world’s leading brands including P&G, Microsoft, Coca Cola and Visa, to help them connect with today’s rapidly evolving and highly alusive consumer.
Matt has created an award winning agency that has been recognized by some of the industry’s leading publications. He has been featured on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNBC’s Power Lunch, Mashable, Forbes, Fortune, The Financial Times, New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Good morning Matt.
Matt Britton: Hi, how are you?
Marni Edelhart: I’m doing great, thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
Matt Britton: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Marni Edelhart: So in the blurb on the back of your recently published book YouthNation it states that you youth is no longer an age, it is a commodity. What do you mean by that statement?
Matt Britton: Well, I think that the notion of youth now has been re-characterized that if you look at the population there is a subset of the population that’s grown up with the internet in the household. So those are people that are millennials or Gen Z and they’ve grown up understanding the impact of technology on their everyday life. So the use of all products and services is intuitively directed towards leveraging technology to its fullest for the purpose of living better lives. People who did not grow up with the internet in the household don’t have that same understanding of technology and don’t have that same understanding of how to use the internet for tasks on an everyday basis.
Now, obviously they are learning but I think the point of youth being a commodity is to really embrace the virtues and practices of the millennial generation and how they look at everything on an everyday basis including business and that’s kind of what can be harnessed to redefine their outlook on actually how to go about having successful careers.
Marni Edelhart: Got it and that makes a lot of sense. So with trends like Normcore and Steampunk it is starting to seem like the coolest thing is to be uncool. How do you advise brands trying to connect with the youth culture where trying to be cool is sort of the least cool thing someone can do?
Matt Britton: I think trying to be cool is the wrong way for brands to look at it, because cool is something that brands will always be chasing in some way, shape or form. I think ultimately it should be about understanding your consumer target and if that’s the younger audience then so be it; understanding what their unmet needs are when they wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning, and where does a brand fit in where they can help fill those unmet needs. That goes beyond just trying to sell a product or service or talking about your unique selling propositions like 20% more absorbent or 50% more horsepower. It’s really about understanding what does my audience need. How can I provide a utility or a service or content to make their lives easier, happier, make them smile more and how can I deliver upon that. And if brands can do that then as a by-product they do become cool. But it’s not by chasing cool, it’s by actually delivering value.
Marni Edelhart: That’s a good message for them. Could you share an example of a specific campaign that really resonated with the younger audience and why you think it was effective?
Matt Britton: Sure. We had a really great campaign with Visa, one of our clients that really hit home with the younger audience. For Visa one of their brand mantras is about getting consumers to go, to go out and live life really, embrace every day to its fullest, and we use social media as an ultimate platform of getting a younger audience to embrace the notion of go and to have these experiences. We created a campaign called Go in Six where basically every day we would share content that was no longer than six words in copy or videos six seconds long. So hyper short form content really built for a generation that’s consuming most content over their mobile devices.
We looked at historical search data from years in the past of what consumers of this age set were looking at every single day, January 1, January 7, you name the day of the year. What is this consumer looking for on this particular day of the year and based on that historical data created content that basically compelled them to pursue experiences which they in the past had been looking to do anyway. So whether it’s barbequing on 4th of July or NFL football traditions, we were delivering experiences and value and curating the right things with audience at the right day on the right time. And since we are delivering something that they had already wanted and we are doing so in a hyper short form capacity built for the mobile devices we had tremendous engagements, tremendous results and really we are able to deliver that on that need for a consumer that was really looking for how to live every day to the fullest.
Marni Edelhart: That sounds like a sort of complex and exciting campaign actually.
Matt Britton: Yeah, so it’s actually very simple to execute but there’s a lot of complexity behind it, and the planning for it.
Marni Edelhart: Yeah, exactly the preparation part is where you do all the work. So what strategies have you implemented to ensure that MRY stays relevant in this age of perpetual youth and how do you harness the power of youth.
Matt Britton: I think we have a way of going about building this agency which is in some ways counter to lart Madison Ave agencies that we consider our peer set. We don’t believe in hiring kind of senior level people from the outside because we think that sometimes can really adversely impact culture. Instead what we really try to do is empower our younger employees to essentially be in situations that they would normally have to be 5 to 10 years senior at another agency to be put in. And we let them sink or swim. We really let our youthful segment of our employee base become empowered to deliver. We trust them. We give them the tools, resources and training they need but what we don’t do is make them wait until they have to go through 5, 10, 15 years of seniority in order for them to become technically senior in our organization.
So by empowering and trusting younger people in our organization, we kind of have these youthful exuberance in entrepreneurial spirit that’s exuded throughout our agency. Since all of our clients are trying to figure out how to reach this younger generation who better to put in front of them than that generation themselves, and then kind of redefining the rules of traditional agency. We’ve been able to really evolve more quickly, be much more dynamic as an organization and that’s giving us a clear competitive advantage.
Marni Edelhart: Has that impacted the trust building with your clients at all having sort of the younger executives engaging with them directly or is it increasing trust?
Matt Britton: I think that it’s a measured risk we take. I think that it is about experience versus seniority. So I think that we need to make sure that our people have experience and they know how to handle situations and they have the right guardrails around them to deliver. It would impact trust if we were in a position where we weren’t executing on a consistent basis, but through the 13-year history of our agency we’ve been able to do so. It’s funny because you will hear a lot of clients in boardrooms saying Mark Zuckerberg this, Mark Zuckerberg that you know him being 30 years old yet the 30-year-old in their organization are nowhere to be found in these boardroom meetings right. So they are talking about somebody else who is very young is redefining the rules like that’s how their company should act yet they are not empowering the younger people in their organizations.
So we actually you know have really always been of the mindset that it’s not about age, it’s about a mindset, it’s about people who really are passionate about the business, who understand where things are going and those are the people that we need to invest in and truly empower.
Marni Edelhart: So what are some of the common mistakes you’ve seen brands make that broke trust with their younger customers?
Matt Britton: I think trying to chase or buy cool which is something that you brought up earlier in the interview is definitely a common mistake, I think cool and having a place in pop culture or the legitimacy to it, is not a sign that can be bought, I think it is something that truly needs to be earned and need to be earned by building the trust of your consumer. And you are not going to build the trust of your consumer unless you first really try to understand them. I think a lot of brands make a mistake in not taking the time to listen to their audience and truly understand how their brand is perceived and what their audience is looking for, and instead just try to cram commercial messages you know down their throat and left and right when consumers might not really want to listen to those. So I think not listening to your audience and not truly understanding what their needs are, is probably the number one mistake that brands are making.
Marni Edelhart: Well, thank you so much for your time today Matt. That’s all been incredibly interesting and I can’t wait to hear more from you at Pivot about trust and building trust with the younger generation.
Matt Britton: Yeah, I can’t wait to be at Pivot, it’s going to be a great time.