Millennials spend over $200 billion in the U.S. every year, and the number is steadily on the rise. Considering the generation now represents 24 percent of the U.S. population and outnumbers baby boomers, it’s easy to see why businesses consider grabbing millennials’ attention a primary goal.

That doesn’t mean they are succeeding. According to research conducted by Ernan Roman of ERDM, most companies’ attempts at personalization rate somewhere between “awful” and inadequate in the minds of millennials. There is a huge opportunity here for brands to do better, and the work begins with the message.

Matt Britton, founder and CEO of MRY, tackled these subjects in his best-selling business title “YouthNation.” Drawing on his work at MRY, Britton will take the stage at &THEN 2016 to discuss what brands are doing right and what they can do to have more success with the nation’s biggest consumer base.

What Isn’t Working

If there is one thing all marketers can agree on, it’s that the status quo does not work with millennials. The question of authenticity affects everything from the way this age group votes to the way it buys food and clothing. When young people feel marketed to in the old-fashioned way, they turn off and look for a more satisfying experience from another brand.

Choosing the wrong channels is another problem companies have reaching millennials. As Britton explained in an interview, “Traditional media distribution channels have forever been diminished and no longer offer the competitive advantage they once did.” Targeting this audience means finding them where they spend time, and it begins with a mobile device.

Tiptoeing through the usual privacy concerns is another blunder brands make with millennials. This generation grew up with the internet and expects personal data to be part of the marketing equation. Continuing to deliver stiff marketing communication is a losing strategy, especially when it ignores data consumers expects brands to use in savvy ways.

A Smarter Approach

Ernan Roman discussed millennials’ openness to exchange data for more personalized marketing communications in what he calls the “reciprocity of value.” Brands that get it right will have this generation’s eyes and ears when trying to earn repeat customers or land that first sale.

Britton has spoken about the enduring power of word-of-mouth communication between millennials, though there is a twist. “Word-of-mouth is most often earned by delivering authentic experiences and content to consumers in unexpected ways,” he said. Celebrity endorsements may also have appeal, though “celebrity” extends far beyond movie stars and musicians.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and what works for one campaign may flop for the next. Agility is directly tied to relevance when trying to keep up with this generation. In his presentation on the second day of &THEN, Matt Britton will cover more of the techniques brands can use to get over the latest hurdles in millennial marketing.

This article is brought to you by &THEN, DMA’s annual event. Click here to join the leaders of the marketing community and explore the science of creativity in Los Angeles, October 16-18. Save over $500 when you register online.