Social Media Week NYC: McDonald’s and Weight Watchers execs tackle how to appeal to millennials


McDonald’s and Weight Watchers and Monster executives have come together to tackle the topic of how to appeal to millennials, which now comprise a quarter of the US population.

Speaking on a panel at Social Media Week in New York called “The Connected Generation: Engaging Millennials in a Social World,” McDonald's US communications manager Lainey Garcia said she uses the acronym “DNA” to describe millennial attributes: digital natives, not brand loyal, and demand authenticity.

“Millenials have their radar up for BS and demand transparency,” she said, adding that McDonald’s is losing market share. “We know that we are losing sales because many consumers don’t trust McDonalds. They don’t think it’s real food.”

Garcia said social listening is critical to the success of McDonald’s, citing a recent example where the company created YouTube videos that spoke to misperceptions about the brand and answered questions that millennials often have.

The “Our food. Your questions” series includes videos with titles such as “Does McDonald’s use real eggs?” and “What are McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets made of?”

For Weight Watchers, the concerns around attracting millennials to the brand are a different. Stacie Sherer, vice president of Public Relations for Weight Watchers, said: “Pretty much everyone knows someone who has lost weight on Weight Watchers. For millennials, the focus is around finding a way to translate that reputation, history, and heritage.”

“It used to be about diet and deprivation and giving things up,” said Sherer. “Millennials are not up for that. They want to live a healthier life but what that means to them is different from previous generations”, she said, adding that weight loss may be part of the goal for millennials but it is not the way into the conversation.

Sherer said Instagram has been an important channel for the brand, as people who are using Weight Watchers will connect to each other on the photo-sharing app and sometimes even send care packages to one another.

She said Weight Watchers will send users swag that they can gift to others and amplify their social moments. “You’re giving them that social currency by celebrating the journey that they’re already sharing,” Sherer said.

However, Sherer said the brand tries to stay away from the “bright shiny object syndrome” of thinking that just because a new platform is unveiled, the brand must find a way to use it.

“We have to make sure that what we’re providing is valuable,” she said.

The panel also included Matt Anchin, senior vice president, global communications of Monster Worldwide and was moderated by Jeff Beringer, global digital leader of Interpublic Group-owned Golin.

For further information on the media habits of millennials check out Bauer Knowledge: The Millennials Chapter.

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