Research Helps MarketersMake Millennial Connections

To reach young consumers, Pepsi relies on MTV insights for summer program

RELATED: Millennials Want TV--And Accept Ads: Study

Marketers looking to sell their goods to members of the millennial generation still want their MTV.

The 32-year-old network does tons of research to maintain its connection to young viewers and it shares the insights from that research to help sponsors make sure their campaigns click with consumers in the 18-34 demographic.

"We are constantly meeting with the insights team for that general overview," says Rachel Baumgarten, senior VP, integrated marketing at MTV. "But then there are other times when we are meeting with them on a client-specific basis."

Baumgarten's team will have an idea for an integrated campaign and run it past the research folks. "There are checks and balances with our insights and research team to make sure the things that we feel are popping, or making a good connection, really will resonate as we look to go into the execution phase," she says.

One recent example was MTV's involvement with the launch of Pepsi's Live for Now campaign last summer. That campaign proved successful enough for Pepsi and MTV to agree to bring back a new iteration this summer.

Pepsi brought the Live For Now idea to MTV to tap into its knowledge as well as for ways to bring the campaign to life.

Baumgarten says the millennial consumers MTV is so familiar with do live in the now, and believe that life is about their joyous happy moments, confirming Pepsi's notion.

To that MTV added the insight that millennials are storytellers. "They're capturing their moments with smartphones. They're taking photos and posting them and they're Tweeting them and they're putting them on Instagram," she says. "In all the programs we do we want to capitalize on existing millennial behaviors, rather than trying to create new behaviors. It's really important for us to be able to tap into what they're doing, because they're going to adopt this marketing behavior easier and quicker if it's something they do in their everyday lives."

So Pepsi and MTV teamed up to help consumers share those photos, broadcasting them on TV, posting them on the Web and re-Tweeting them on Twitter.

Ads carrying both the Pepsi and MTV brands ran on MTV and other Viacom networks-MTV2, Comedy Central, VH1 and CMT-called on viewers to send in picture. The first spot featured the band The Wanted. "They're millennials themselves and they're big on MTV and they have a good social footprint," Baumgarten says of the band famous for the hit "Glad You Came." Those spots, created by MTV, were paired with traditional brand commercials.

The campaign ran in the social space and the digital space as well.

Pepsi and MTV also encouraged the behavior by giving away prizes, such as chances to go to concerts, the CMT Music Awards, the Colbert Summer Music Festival and the Video Music Awards.

Those prizes stem from another insight. "The walls between the fan and the music artist is collapsing and millennials want to get closer and more up close and personal with artists," Baumgarten said. "This program allows them to."

Which brings us to the bottom line when it comes to marketing to millennials.

"The biggest takeaway about millennials is that they've been marketed to since they were very young. They get the marketing game and they're willing to play along. They just need to know that there's value in it for them," Baumgartner says.

"They don't shun marketing. They get it," she continues. "They just want to play along and feel like they have a value in the equation."

Despite dropping 17%, MTV was the No. 8 cable network among adults 18-34 in 2012.

But MTV is hardly the only place where you can find millennials. It may come as a surprise that syndication has some of the highest rated shows among young adults.

According to the Syndicated Network Television Association, some of its comedies have three times the proportion of young-adult viewers than broadcast primetime programming. Top scoring shows include Futurama, King of the Hill and Family Guy.

SNTA president Mitch Burg adds another tidbit: syndicated episodes of The Big Bang Theory generate higher ratings among young adult viewers than the NFL.

That's especially good to know if you're selling smartphones, movies, video game players or soft drinks, all categories where millennials are big spenders.

"It's important for marketers that need to impact this group to know that they need to start with us," Burg says.

E-mail comments to jlafayette@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @jlafayette