I heard a speaker last year who is an expert on “marketing to millennials”–and since hearing that speaker, the topic seems to come up everywhere (and more often).
Bernie Sanders had something to do with that I guess…but it made me think that it’s a great topic for us to explore as marketers, copywriters and entrepreneurs.
And don’t worry… this blog will never get political. But I do love analyzing “politicians as marketers”…a topic for another day.
While Millennials have less time to be engaged with our long copy…and less money to buy stuff (I actually love the 60+ audience for that reason alone!), we obviously can’t ignore this group whether we sell directly to them or not… and I have some thoughts for you to consider.
“Millennials” are defined on Wikipedia as:
Millennials (also known as the MillennialGeneration or Generation Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates when the generation starts and ends. Researchers and commentators use birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.
Both of my kids are part of this generation and I define it differently:
“I will never hear from my kids if I don’t text them.”
E-mail is so 1999…
I don’t have to repeat the numbers regarding the ownership and use of smart phones by this generation…and clearly there is no turning back.
But every trend has a counter trend…and that doesn’t mean we are all throwing out our smart phones either.
My direct marketing sensibilities always go to three basic questions:
1.) “Who is buying?”
2.) “How are they buying?”
3.) “What do we need to know going forward to be as effective as possible with our marketing messages?”
My kids (and young adults like them) are buying something…in my case they are mostly using MY credit cards…and again, if marketers are not selling to them through a text message, good luck getting their attention!
But I will go out on a limb and repeat that there are some counter trends we should pay attention to.
Like multi-channel marketing (i.e. looking at all media, online and offline), multi-platform selling (i.e. the precise way we communicate with prospects) needs to be looked at more closely going forward…as does the future messaging for this up-and-coming audience.
Simply put, 20 year olds today will be 50 year olds thirty years from now– that’s my starting point.
Again, I won’t argue the point that there is no turning back from smart phones running our lives and the lives of the generation behind me…but let’s not lose sight of the benefits of diversification and making sure we are ready to meet the Millennials where they will need to be met once they are all buying stuff with their own money… “stuff” that we buy now… and “stuff” (maybe in a different form) that our parents and grandparents buy/bought as well.
During my 30 plus years at Boardroom, a month never went by before someone raised the issue of our aging demographic.
We used to say we had a “55+ market” but based on the correspondence with them, they always seemed a lot older.
Which, by the way, was very successful and profitable.
Thank you very much Seniors!
The conversation went something like this:
“Our subscribers and book buyers are so old…we have to figure out a way to sell to a younger audience.”
However, I always addressed this worry in a different way:
“We don’t have to get younger…we just need to be ready for the new 50 year olds when they are ready for the kind of information we provide.”
Believe it or not, every Millennial in their 20’s or 30’s today will eventually need to think about issues such as estate planning, retirement savings, life insurance and yes, even their clogged arteries.
And to take it a step further, unfortunately, if they look like us when they are 50, many will also be pre-diabetic and facing all of the aches and pains of aging.
In case they (or you) aren’t aware, a smart phone does not reverse the aging process.
Also: Believe it or not, their mortality rate will be 100% just like every generation who came before them.
The challenge for us as marketers will be to deliver information in a form that they are most comfortable receiving it.
It could be on the I-Phone of 2045…but I would suggest that we should keep an open mind on format and design…and still focus on the message and the content being the best we can deliver first and foremost.
The words and the information will still need to be world class: useful, practical, and applicable and in language that is understandable by everyone.
How we deliver it best to a generation that is currently living inside their smart phones is the ongoing adventure and inquiry.
A very successful entrepreneur shared, after hearing that same presentation about Millennials mentioned previously, that he has focused more and more on design than copy–so his company is prepared for this generation going forward.
This hit me like ton of bricks and I came up with this conclusion:
When today’s Millennials come looking for the same, critically important information their parents needed when THEY reached 40 or 50, it may need to be packaged differently…but it is still critical information…and it will NOT be delivered on just “one thing” or “one format” or “one smart phone.”
(Note: I only hope that moving from 70% of his creative staff being copywriters and 30% being designers to the other way around doesn’t compromise the quality of the content.).
In his case I know it won’t…he is in the top 5% of all online marketers in terms of overall quality and usability of his company’s materials.
But I fear that he is the exception, not the rule.
I think looking for counter trends and turning those counter trends into “diversification opportunities” could be the key in differentiating content, products and marketing brands in the future.
I have no idea what that looks like but keeping an open mind seems to be the best approach at this point.
I am all for making sure we meet today’s Millennials on platforms they can relate to…but compromising the quality of the content we deliver needs to be non-negotiable…wherever it ends up residing.
We all cringe way too often these days as lazy marketers go for the quick buck and replace proper list selection, offers and creative with technological wizardry.
I recently read an article from someone who even went so far as to say that the “40/40/20 rule” is now a “25/25/25/25 rule.”
That is, instead of the success of any direct response marketing campaign, online or offline, depending 40% on the quality and relevance of the list, 40% on the offer being made to that list, and 20% on creative/copy, this marketer said those three things were 25% each to make room for “25% technology.”
I don’t want to diminish the importance of technology in the equation, but I will quote advertising pioneer Bill Bernbach here:
“Adapt your techniques to an idea, not an idea to your techniques.”
(More about the 40/40/20 rule in the P.S. below if you are interested…)
I know I probably sound like a Luddite but my gut tells me it’s still all about the right message going to the right audience with the right offer.
I’m curious what you think.
The readers on this list have been so perceptive…here’s a great opportunity to call me “Grandpa” and to get out of the way…or to agree with me on some or all of this…or to add your own spin.
I would love to hear from you.
Oops…need to go…my daughter is texting me…
P.S. One of the most important voices to Millennials is my buddy Ramit Sethi…he’s teaching life skills to that audience that they never learned in school–about finance, running a business and even copywriting.
I was just interviewed for his “Growth Lab” which advises his tribe about building an online business; and frankly, my message would have been the same if I was talking to an older audience rather than Ramit’s, who are looking to grow an online business.
You can read it here.
I would love to know what you think…and during the interview I was reminded about some “basics” myself…it’s a pretty quick read.
P.P.S. And a friend sent me this wonderful video (it’s short and fun…and catchy!) all about Millennials…I thought you would enjoy it as well.