Looking Ahead to ENGAGE: Joah Spearman on Marketing to Millennials

ENGAGE 2016 Logo 680×680 For Blog 01

BIA/Kelsey’s ENGAGE conference next month in Austin, Texas, is about innovating and executing in the local and SMB digital marketplace. The local and SMB space isn’t just about creating tools, it’s also about building audiences in order to drive engagement, leads and transactions.

One of ENGAGE’s Day 1 headline speaker’s will share insights that will help publishers and platform providers build products that engage more effectively with millennials. Joah Spearman is CEO and founder of Localeur, a community that connects travelers with authentic local experiences shared by locals.

Localeur (a hybrid of “local” and “connoisseur”) is a community built for millennials — 83 percent of its roughly one million users are between 18-34. Localeur has launched in 20 cities to date (a number that will soon double). The platform is built entirely on user generated content. The company launched in 2013 and has raised about $2 million to date.

“We built Localeur on the fundamental belief that people wanted to get off the tourist guide book trail and get away from tourist traps and go for more authentic, locally owned experiences,” Spearman said. “What makes us stand apart is our focus on authenticity.”

Spearman is an entrepreneur and Austin local (and University of Texas grad) with an eclectic background (political speech writing, retail, fashion, social media). He has developed deep insights into how to create engagement with millennials, a generation that represents about a quarter of the U.S. population but has outsize value to marketers as it matures into peak purchasing power.

We had a video chat with Joah last week where we talked about his progression from political consultant to entrepreneur, what makes Localeur unique in the local ecosystem, what makes millennials tick, and finally what makes Austin such a draw for creatives and entrepreneurs. We captured brief segments of our conversation in the videos below.

The public perception of millennials is governed by cliches. For example, millennials were given too many trophies as children and hence require endless positive feedback. They are self-involved (e.g., selfies and Go Pros). They don’t believe in paying their dues on the way up the corporate ladder. And so on. Spearman suggests these cliches obscure more valuable insights that will help those building local audience to connect with this coveted demographic.

Spearman’s May 17 ENGAGE talk, “The Authenticity Age: Be Real or Be Replaced”, will focus on do’s and don’t in building products and services that appeal to millennials. Anyone in the business of connecting advertisers with local consumers via online, mobile, social and messaging platforms needs to understand how millennials prioritize and consume content, and what triggers trust in a brand.

Spearman uses the word “authenticity” a lot because it is a core value for millennials and is behind so much of what they embrace and reject.

“Millennials trust authenticity more that quality,” Spearman said. This isn’t to say that millennials don’t appreciate quality but their trust gravitates toward user generated content that feels real and immediate. “This is why millennials have unlocked value in businesses like Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat.”

Along similar lines, brands that “speak their minds” and communicate in a genuine voice generate more trust among millennials than those that are guarded or overly polished in their communications. Spearman cites Jet Blue (a company Localeur has a business relationship with) as an example of a brand popular with millennials in part because it communicates with the public in a plainspoken manner.

So what’s it all mean? How many businesses trying to communicate with local audiences can really call themselves authentic, or plainspoken? Is your business doing everything it can to have an authentic voice? Even companies that are not building audience directly can benefit from these insights in trying to build business cultures that appeal to millennials, and the generations that will follow them.

Join BIA/Kelsey at ENGAGE next month to hear more from Joah and about 30 other speakers offering their ideas and best practices for executing in the local and SMB space.

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