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The Ad in Madness: Why Brands are Missing Big With Millennials

MARCH 2013 Millennial Marketing Insight from HypeLife Brands: "The Ad in Madness: Why Brands are Missing Big With Millennials"

The Super Bowl is the most watched television event of the year, nearly every year. And it’s usually not even close. It’s the top two teams battling it out for supremacy of the most popular sport and league in this country. But despite the overwhelming and still-rising ubiquity of football, how many times have you heard this phrase mentioned alongside the words ‘super’ and ‘bowl’? “I only watch for the commercials.”

The Super Bowl is the penultimate moment for brands to unveil their latest and greatest, where top ad agencies from all over the world clamor to fuel the creative mojo behind the commercial everyone is talking about the next day. And yet, just two months later, there’s a four-day basketball binge where people who haven’t watched a game all year long suddenly learn everything there is to know about teams like Florida Gulf Coast University, fill out a bracket, and watch every second of every game in hopes that this is the year they come out on top. 

For March Madness, however, there is no mention of the commercials. In fact, there’s often a debate about which commercial will come to annoy us the most by the end of the tournament. How can this be? This is a tournament starring Gen Y athletes, watched by Gen Y students and fans from all 50 states – all while the demographic most sought after by marketers and brands everywhere continues to be: Generation Y. 

On that note, here are some of the commercials we saw over the last four days: The exact same Enterprise Rent-a-Car commercial that we see every single year; Capital One vikings and a fifty-something Alec Baldwin; a lofty, blue-sky Southwest Airlines ad set to Fun’s “Some Nights”; and a retired Shaquille O’Neal stuffed into a Buick. There were other commercials, to be sure, but none worth mentioning. Besides, you get the point.

None of these commercials spoke to Millennials (although Southwest at least tried to incorporate a popular song). Millennials want irreverence, they want a quality product, they want marketing without feeling like they’re being marketed to. They want people who are their own age using the product. If this sounds obvious, then take solace, because you’re already ahead of the game. And when you think of Millennials, a few brands always come to mind: Old Spice, Red Bull, Skittles,TOMS, among others. That’s because these brands are tireless in their efforts to reach Generation Y, and some (TOMS) have never aired a single TV ad. So, here are a few of the things these brands do best, all of which your brand should be doing, too:

  • Stop selling and entertain already!
  • Maintain a strong, sometimes viral web presence
  • If social media doesn’t drive everything you do, you’re done before you start.
  • Use media buys sparingly and strategically (TV ain’t what it used to be)
  • Sponsor the right events, not the biggest events 
  • More is not always better; cultivate loyalty with your target audience first


Curt Cuscino
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