Ask The Rebels: Q & A with brands and agencies who understand that to succeed in today's marketing you need to be more than a rockstar, you need to be a Rebel.

by Andrea Harrison, Head of Platform Strategy at RebelMouse

Ask the Rebels, Volume 1: Jamie Gutfreund, CMO Deep Focus

How to cultivate Digital Intimacy with younger consumers: Findings from The Cassandra Report syndicated research

As a former Digital Brand Marketer, I've been a big fan of both Deep Focus and The Cassandra Report for quite a while. At Pepsi, I used the report to help anticipate how best to reach my core consumers, and specifically my growth target audience, ages 18-24. The current release of The Cassandra Report helps marketers better understand how to develop deeper connections with young consumers through digital brand communications. They also discuss how to use messaging channels like apps, and why a brand's approach on these platforms should be very different than on social networks.

I recently sat down with Jamie Gutfreund, CMO of Deep Focus to talk about the report and the biggest takeaways for brand marketers. My first question was about the history of The Cassandra Report and how they see brands using the data.

"Most brands today have more data than they know what to do with. We actually call this the white binder syndrome - we frequently see "white binders" filled with unimaginable amounts of data that literally sits on a shelf and provides a fraction of the value that it could if translated into true insights."

"What marketers need is a way to turn data into insights that can help them create new products, buy media or engage their audiences in creative ways."

The Cassandra Report is a syndicated research study that leverages Deep Focus' proprietary quantitative and qualitative research to deliver insights for 14-34 year old consumers. We don't just tell brands "what" consumers are doing we take it a step further to help them understand the "why" behind their preferences, behaviors and actions."

For Jamie, the biggest takeaway in this release of the report is the importance and preference for more intimate online communications shown by younger consumers.

Key Takeaway: The New Digital Intimacy

"We are in a new digital era where younger generations are shifting the online world from the "public square" to a more intimate environment, and bringing a human touch to the web in the process. For brands, this means a marked shift from relying on just mass marketing initiatives to an opportunity and need to forge more personal relationships with customers and fans."

This was shown in specific data points from the report listed below:

1. Today, web users are getting to know strangers on an emotional level and 35% consider these "E-lationships" just as valid or real as those that exist in person.

2. Young consumers are taking a more empathetic approach to web browsing adopting an Ethical Click mindset in which they're thinking more carefully about how their individual online actions affect others. 49% of Gen Y feel badly after clicking on/reading gossipy/negative content.

3. Gen Ys and Zs longing for a greater sense of closeness online is manifesting itself through new habits documenting their experiences, in fact, 51% think about what they are going to wear everyday based on how it will look in photos.

View the Interactive Infographic Here

So how can brand marketers respond to these findings and impact their own communications planning? Jamie thinks there are ways for brands to cultivate more meaningful brand connections with younger consumers by creating a greater sense of intimacy in their digital communications.

"While social media allows marketers to share their messages with the broadest possible audiences, these "general" approaches on their own may not always leave a meaningful impression on consumers. That's not to say brands should stop engaging via social platforms, but they should consider augmenting them in more private or intimate spaces."

Recommendations for achieving this type of digital intimacy include the following:

1. Having more direct conversations via chat apps enables brands to have a louder impact and create stronger bonds with the right people - their true fans rather than shouting to everyone.

2. At a time when "digital intimacy" can be a powerful tool, keep in mind that young consumers don't want to be sold, they want to develop relationships with the brands they care about.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Jamie and look forward to catching the next release of The Cassandra Report. Jamie told me that the next report will address Gen Z – consumers 17 and younger who are not just younger versions of millennials. Since the Cassandra Report has been studying young consumers for almost 20 years, they have the ability to provide some unique perspective on this upcoming group of consumers by comparing this new research with data from when millennials were at the same age.

You can follow @CassandraReport and for daily insights and "micro-trends" on topics raging from the latest tech devices to new retail strategies.