We know that Millennials are a hyper-connected generation, but we are just beginning to understand their dislike of silence – and what it means for marketers. As research has shown, whether at work, on the way to class, in the car, at a mall or on the couch, this generation feels "uncomfortable" in silence.

Young consumers are so enamored with sound wherever they are — and increasingly when they're on the go, given the continued growth of mobile usage -- that they are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on "Beats By Dre" and other designer headphones – generic, budget earbuds simply fall short when you are constantly tuning in. Younger generations have become accustomed to – even dependent on – having a soundtrack throughout their day. In a very real way, they are captive to their own need for sound, and radio – broadcast or digital – has never provided more options to fill the void: In our survey, 85% of listeners aged 18-24 said radio is more accessible than ever, and 75% say they can access radio anywhere.

Thanks to smartphones, increasingly ubiquitous Wi-Fi, and faster mobile networks, these consumers rarely have to endure silence if they choose not to. And the implications for marketers are massive, particularly because consumers don't listen in a vacuum – in fact, just the opposite.

When Millennials listen, they're often online, glued to their social newsfeeds, email and text messages. Thanks to smartphones and social networking, even $300 noise-cancelling headphones can't isolate listeners from marketing messages. Millennials' incessant need for a soundtrack is clear – and it holds a number of implications for marketers:

Interactive Ads – Millennials have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, text messaging and the rest of the web at their fingertips day and night (quite literally in fact – 78% of respondents keep their smartphones in the bedroom at night, and 60% keep their phones within arm's reach while they sleep). Broadcast radio with calling in, "texting in" has always been interactive. Use digital to take this relationship even further. Marketers who give listeners something to share are rewarded with greater reach and word-of-mouth endorsements. The lesson? Don't just advertise – engage.

  • Direct Traffic – Since consumers have their phones out or within reach while listening to music, send them to a webpage or the company's Twitter feed for additional content.
  • Primetime is Any Time – Unlike TV, radio listeners are tuned in all day. Don't limit your ads to traditional rush hours.
  • Multitasking – Take advantage of consumers' tendency to multitask and give them something to do on a variety of media channels (online, TV, radio and mobile). For example, tell listeners to tag photos on Instagram with a specific hashtag to win prizes.
  • A Voice in Millennials' Ears – A majority of radio listeners view on-air personalities as local celebrities and say they engage with their favorites regularly on social media. DJs can be used as spokespeople, particularly when there's a natural personal connection between him/her and the brand or product.

Unlike past generations (think those who devoured the morning paper and television evening news), Millennials are tuned into a full range of media from the moment they wake up until they close their eyes at night. For this generation, silence is not an option. The combination of round-the-clock connectivity and a need to fill the silence means that for the first time, marketers have the opportunity to reach this key age group nearly 24/7.

But this requires rethinking decades of deep-seated assumptions about the best way to reach consumers. Marketers who fail to understand this – who attempt to engage a 25-year-old consumer today as they would have even a few years ago, will miss their target -- and a tremendous opportunity.

Radha Subramanyam is a seasoned media and entertainment executive with a significant track record as a leader in Media Research and Consumer Insights. She is one of the few individuals in Media who Radha Subramanyam has worked in TV, Digital, Radio and Social media. Her experience in these various media forms spans the Programming, Marketing and Advertising Sales aspects of the business. She is well known for her translation of research and insights into actionable strategy for the companies she works for as well as their clients and partners. She is a visible speaker at events around the country and the world. Radha can be reached at radhasubramanyam@clearchannel.com. Read all Clear Channel's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Clear Channel.

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