It’s a Thursday evening in Beverly Hills and the Gagosian Gallery is hosting a rooftop reception. Price tags on the artwork here go up to several million dollars, but if you’re imagining an older crowd filling the space, you’d be wrong. These art lovers are young.
“We don’t want to get stale,” says *Deborah McLeod, director of the gallery. “This is an upwardly mobile group. These people are lighting Silicon Valley on fire. They come into the gallery in tennis shoes and they’re still living in their two bedroom apartment, but they’ve made a mountain of money and they’re the idea generation. We want them in the gallery.”
McLeod says the Gagosian wants to reach a young demographic – specifically Millennials, thus the cocktail reception for the Orange County Museum of Art Contemporaries, a group for art aficionados under forty.
The Millennials, the generation born between 1982 and 2004, are growing up. And marketers are starting to pay attention. The generation is enormous, 97 million in the U.S., and with adulthood comes money, and, the power to make big purchases — homes, cars and expensive products. But only one millennial was in attendance at the Gagosian. Everyone else was a few years older, bleeding into Generation X. Marketers, it seems, are just beginning to figure out how to reach this age group at it moves into adulthood.
Across the country, in midtown Manhattan, Pam Danziger, a luxury marketing consultant, is on stage at the Initiatives in Art & Culture’s 4th Annual Gold Conference. Her Powerpoint presentation is titled “The Allure of Gold, Marketing Luxury to Millennials.”
“If you believe that the Millennials are going to respond the same as all other generations have done. If you think that the same, the same answers, the same solutions, the same branding propositions are going to work for them, you’re sadly mistaken,” she says to an audience of jewelers.
Danziger says this group does not want its grandparent’s luxury.
“I think we have to start thinking about – what kind of jewelry goes with a yoga pant? And even more importantly for this generation, what kind of jewelry goes with tattoos?”
A few blocks south is the studio of jewelry designer Pamela Love. Love is 32 and she, and all 18 of her employees, except one, are Millennials. What do Millennials really want?
“I don’t think Millennials want to see anything,” says Love. “I think we want to discover it on our own and I think we really want to be treated with the respect of being given the information that we want without being pandered to.”
And if you think that makes Millennials difficult to market to, Love notes that financially “it’s very easy to deal with.”
Less, she says, accomplished by a marketer, is more. Personally, says Love, she hates being bombarded with emails from a brand. So her company has a light touch. Her new campaign for Barneys hangs posters on the sides of buildings and construction sites so consumers can discover them on their own. Which she says is a lot cheaper than taking out ads in a magazine. There’s just one catch.
“It’s illegal but the only thing that really happens is the guy putting them up could potentially get arrested.”
Has that happened?
No, she says, “Not to us.”
Love’s newest poster is an illustration of a woman standing in front of a map which has jewelry pinned to it. The poster, she hopes, tells a story.
MaryLeigh Bliss, a trends editor and strategic consultant with Ypulse, a youth marketing and research firm, says for Millennials, story is key.
“Making it more than just a product, you know it gives it a background that you can connect with emotionally rather than it just being a thing,” she says.
Bliss plays an ad on Youtube with 15 million views. It’s a story about a poor boy who steals medicine for his sick mom. It’s not in English, but it doesn’t need to be.
“It’s a tear jerker,” says Bliss. “We call it tissue box marketing because it really is about evoking that reaction. And, it’s so intense, but as you watch it, you don’t see a brand.”
Bliss says Millennials likes to share experiences. They don’t like to show off. So her advice to marketers –stop trying to promote your brand, and instead, focus on emotion.
From your generation to hers, says Pamela Love, “there’s just more, more of everything. Especially with the internet. You can find anything you want and you can find 50 options of it.”
So Love notes, when she picks something, she picks the one with the story she identifies with. Like the new litter box she recently spent a couple of hours picking out for her cat.
“I ended up picking the one that had a really good video that explained why they designed the litter box the way they did and their philosophies on aesthetics, and I cared, ultimately about the people making the damn litter box. So I bought that one.”