[VIDEO] 80% of Silicon Valley Startups Don't Care about Brand, Missing Huge Opportunity, say Brit+Co & Eventbrite Founders

The next big trend for brands will be to meet millennials where they are—whether that means seamlessly shifting from digital to offline with events, or creating content for third-party platforms they’re already using, from Snapchat to Pinterest. In short, unique platforms demand unique content, posed Brit Morin, CEO and Founder of Brit + Co.

She was joined on stage, drinks tastefully in hand, by Julia Hartz, Co-Founder of Eventbrite, at the Startup Grind Conference. Already reaching 70 million women a month, Brit + Co is a online media and education company, empowering the creativity of millennial women through content, classes, and DIY kits.

Watch Brit + Co's Brit Morin and Eventbrite's Julia Hartz full session at the Startup Grind Global Conference.​​

#GirlBoss: The Start of a Movement

Brittany had the breakthrough while at YouTube: looking at print and TV, she saw something traditional publishers didn't - a huge opportunity to lead with digital content, aiming squarely at the tech-enabled millennial woman. Following the trend of individual creators and content gurus already building huge brand followings on YouTube, Twitter, or Snapchat, Brit + Co set out to emulate the rise of these social media stars not for fame, but for empowerment.

Her answer to the opportunity: a "magazine version of Pinterest," offering content and classes on everything from "coding to calligraphy and cake decorating," deeply inspired by the technology and maker movement of its day - from 3D printing to digital sewing.

Modern Day Brand Building: Authenticity or Irrelevance

The millennial set is discerning: they respond to brands that evoke their trust, Hartz pointed out, and aren’t easily fooled by corporate marketing ploys.

Brit herself was “tired of seeing big corporate companies marketing to people on Twitter and Facebook without having a real human voice and emotion.” Adding her own face to the brand was not a ploy for celebrity, but humanity: to truly connect with millennials, she took a bet, sharing her lifestyle openly and vulnerably.

But building an inspiring brand isn’t a one-and-done deal.

Both Brit and Julia emphasized the grind: it takes years for the identity of a brand to come into its own. Startups must be willing to adapt to “whatever brand comes to you as well as the type of brand you want to build,” notes Morin.

They also observed that Silicon Valley stands out in comparison to its New York and Los Angeles counterparts as eschewing the focus on brand in favor of the product and its engineering. 

“About 80% of startups probably don’t think about brand for the first year," quipped Brit, "at least in Silicon Valley."

And perhaps they should: the two founders cited exceptional companies like Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Nike and Disney as having crafted memorable brands that ultimately impact business, calling them “love brands” that inspire “irrational loyalty."

Winning Over the “Experiences Generation” 

For both Eventbrite and Brit + Co, in-person events have been key to their community efforts. Both women discussed their respective strategies: from Eventbrite’s gatherings designed to rally their event organizers to Brit + Co’s pop-ups and their annual festival, Remake, they believe that omni-channel efforts are key. 

Though events may seem hard to scale, they deliver a memorable experience of the sort millennials crave more than ever—and are eager to show off through social media.

“Millennials, especially today, can get anything they want online through Amazon and any other e-commerce site. But what they can’t get is that experience, and they actually prefer experiences now more than ever,” said Brit Morin. They particularly favor “opportunities to get together with people who are passionate that are lifestyle-related."

According to the founder, millennials are truly the “experiences generation.”

This consumer shift from spending dollars on experiences more than physical goods is a key opportunity. Hartz agreed, offering the recommendation that events are potent at creating promoters of the brand, though ROI may not be immediately evident.

Snapchat, Pintrest, Facebook: Why New Channels Demand New Strategies

Creating content meant to entertain and engage audiences on the likes of Snapchat, Pinterest and Facebook is the transformation of digital media that Brit Morin is the most excited about. 

This isn’t the same marketing content audiences are used to, which historically has tried to lure them to the brand’s website or push sales overtly (which makes it “a little bit risky,” admitted Morin). Instead, this approach meets fans where they already hang out to deliver truly unique and valuable content—which makes it a powerful tool for building trust.

It looks like the savviest brands are moving towards building relationships first. They’re doing this by showing up where their communities are most engaged—whether offline or on third-party social media platforms. More consumer-focused Silicon Valley startups would do well to follow their lead by creating trust and building their own “love brands."