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Pictured left to right: Coley Holnback, Marketing Manager- Global Sponsorship Marketing at Visa; Courtney Buckley, Associate Marketing Manager at Allstate Insurance Company, and Sloan White, Brand Manager, Retail Partnerships at Capital One.

Trendsetters: Millennial Leaders from Visa, Allstate and Capital One Talk Marketing and Share a View of the Industry’s Future

“Millennial” may be among the most-used words in marketing today. There’s no question that this generation’s digital identity has caused profound shifts in media, while their coming of age during the challenges of the world’s “Great Recession” has affected their economic values and fostered an ideology of greater sharing and transparency.

Originally known as Generation Y, and sometimes referred to as Generation We, the Net Generation or the Global Generation, Millennials throughout the world are generally defined as those born between 1980 and 1995, according to PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) research conducted with the London Business School and the University of Southern California. They are also often considered Echo Boomers, referring to the generation’s size relative to the Baby Boom generation. And Sociologist Kathleen Shaputis has dubbed them the Boomerang Generation or Peter Pan Generation, as many have lived with their parents longer than most previous generations, while also delaying some rites of passage traditionally associated with adulthood.

Despite the variety of labels, Millennials are the largest living generation and the most coveted consumer group since the Baby Boom. As early adopters of technology and heavy users of online, social, and mobile media, it is critical for marketers to learn how to connect with this important group.

At the ANA’s Brand Masters Conference, held at the end of February in Hollywood, Florida, industry veteran and conference host Roger Adams, SVP & Chief Marketing Officer of USAA and ANA Brand Management Committee Chair, interviewed three earnest young women—all devoted to their marketing careers—about their generation and how marketing is changing today. Visa’s Coley Holnback, Allstate’s Courtney Buckley, and Capital One’s Sloan White are all recipients of the ANA Rising Marketing Star Award. Nominated by senior executives at their companies, they are considered role models for the industry’s younger workforce.

There was much agreement among the three panelists—particularly in areas of brand authenticity in all communications and a marketing ethos of experimentation, risk-taking, and a willingness to test and learn, particularly in the social space. Visa’s Coley Holnback shared a philosophical approach to marketing in a 365/24/7 world: “There is a value in timeliness that causes higher risk as you are inherently moving more quickly than you typically would to create material and get it approved, etc. This value is seen, understood, and in my opinion, appreciated, by Millennials. The reward outweighs the risk and effort that goes into to executing this.”

Marketers should take heart that Millennials are more forgiving about mistakes than they may have originally assumed. According to Capital One’s Sloan White: “We’re forgiving because we move on quickly…and we can appreciate when a brand ‘owns up’ to something that didn’t go as expected. In our world, the News Feed keeps on going and the Twitter feed keeps scrolling. We don’t hold a grudge, and we understand the vulnerability of social media.” She adds, “Now it may take a while to earn our brand favorability back, but I’m ok with brands taking risks.”

Allstate’s Courtney Buckley set an overall tone by telling the audience: “My goals as a Marketing Manager and a Millennial are simple. I want to be challenged, I want to keep learning, and I want to be heard at the table. We are a huge buying force and we have value.” Responding to Roger Adam’s question of what she would do if she were a CMO today, Ms. Buckley immediately answered: “I’d make sure that my brand was more experiential. I know that if a brand touches me, I will be loyal.”

So what kind of advertising works best in the minds of Millennials?

According to Coley Holnback it’s Dos Equis beer. She says, “With information being ever available, staying true to your brand and purpose builds appreciation and loyalty. A brand that I think does this really well is Dos Equis. They have built a persona (The most interesting man in the world) and create clever bite-sized content about him. It doesn’t say anything about the product, which could be a risk, but I love how true to the brand it is.”

Sloan White said, “I absolutely loved the photo that Dunkin Donuts posted with the parody of the ‘selfie’ Ellen took during the Oscars. It was funny, brand consistent, and made me laugh. Some brands may consider that a risk, but I think it’s clever.”

She added an important point: “I wouldn’t consider myself distrustful of advertising, but I definitely feel like I can see through half-hearted or inauthentic advertising. I appreciate innovation in marketing and can give credit to a brand trying something new. I don’t like brands that are doing something only because it ‘feels’ Millennial. At the core, it needs to be true to their brand promise and promote their differentiated product or service.”

Courtney Buckley, Associate Marketing Manager at Allstate Insurance Company, leads the development and execution of public relations and social media programs for Allstate’s Integrated Marketing Communications department. This primarily includes support of Allstate's general market and multicultural sponsorships: College sports including Allstate® Sugar Bowl®, Allstate's "Good Hands®" Field Goal Net program across 80 partner universities, NCAA®, SEC, Big Ten; Soccer including MLS, USSF, and Mexican National Soccer Team, to build Allstate’s brand consideration and preference. Additionally, Courtney leads public relations support for the company’s motorcycle advocacy marketing initiatives.

Under Courtney’s leadership, Allstate’s public relations campaigns have been recognized with numerous awards including six Chicago Skyline Awards and an “Award of Excellence” from PRSA’s Silver Anvil Awards. Courtney holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from Southern Illinois University. She and her husband have two young children.

Coley Holnback, Marketing Manager of Global Sponsorship Marketing is responsible for the development of Visa’s global visual identity system for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ and manages the execution for Visa’s entire onsite branding presence across 12 stadiums throughout Brazil. She has become proficient in Portuguese to be even more effective in Brazil. Previous to the FIFA World Cup™, Coley supported Visa’s sponsorship of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup™ and the 2012 London Olympics. Coley began her career at Visa four and a half years ago in the inaugural year of Visa’s new graduate rotational program. She is a Colorado native and 2009 graduate of the University of Denver and currently lives in San Francisco, California.

Sloan White, Brand Manager of Retail Partnerships at Capital One manages marketing for one of Capital One’s luxury retail credit card partnerships. She handles all credit marketing for Saks Fifth Avenue’s SaksFirst loyalty program. She collaborates with Saks Fifth Avenue on the development of comprehensive brand marketing strategies for their luxury retail partnership segment, including acquisitions and customer management/loyalty activities.

Over the past six and half years, Ms. White’s leadership has helped make Capital One a top brand in College sports. She previously led all integrated marketing efforts for the annual Capital One Mascot Challenge and Capital One Bowl. She is a 2007 graduate of the University of Richmond and she and her husband reside in Richmond.

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