What Millennials Really Think About Influencers

four friends gather in a park outside
By Pace Editor |

During Content+ 2015, Gordon Locke, senior vice president and chief development officer at Pace, hosted a panel featuring Elon University students on how brands can effectively market to millennials and how influencers play a role in reaching them.

Marketers tend to think of millennials an isolated group that’s important to market to—and they are. Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers. They compose 60 percent of the workforce. And by 2020, one in three people will be a millennial. The generation is smart, curious, thoughtful and articulate. They’re driving purchase decisions. And how brands market to them is critically important to success in driving brand affinity, loyalty and, ultimately, conversion.

When asked for examples of what brands are doing well, we heard the following:

bobble water bottles

bobble launched a campus rep program whereby it identified students to serve as advocates for the brand—bringing the brand on campus and sharing new products and ideas. Through this program, students felt empowered by the brand, and students saw the brand as being credible because their peers recommended it.


theSkimm is a daily email newsletter that gives its readers everything they need to start their days. According to one panelist, “theSkimm is the first thing I check when I get up in the morning.” Described as having a unique brand personality and sassy tone, millennials look to it its content to keep up with the news and current events. The publisher recently launched skimmbassadors, a brand advocacy program now 6,000 strong, as a result of its fans contacting the founders directly.


One panelist talked about her “obsession with makeup videos” created by YouTube influencers, particularly AlisonLovesJB. Millennials are open to brands as sponsors, and are even open to purchasing sponsors’ products, so long as those brands are relevant to an influencer’s message and so long as the brand remains relevant to the viewer.

So what advice can brands take from millennials?

  • Be a friend. Millennials choose brands because they like the brand, not just because they like the brand’s products.
  • Have two-way dialogue. Engage with millennials—have a conversation with them instead of simply speaking at them.
  • Be genuine. Brands shouldn’t pretend to be something they’re not.
  • Be present. Activate content through channels that millennials love and are active in.
  • Brand advocacy is important. Millennials rely heavily on their peers for driving their brand decisions.
  • Don’t forget email. Millennials are still very present in this channel.
  • Efficiency is important. Develop content that is easy to digest and meets millennials’ needs quickly.
  • Be transparent. This will help you to build trust with this audience.

Millennials engage with brands they trust, that facilitate their life, that are transparent, and that are willing to have a conversation with them. Do this, and you’ll build long-term brand loyalty.

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