Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Millennials Matter. Period.


Happy Spring!  In the Persian culture, the new year coincides with the first day of Spring.  New year, new attitude and new optimism for peace, prosperity and whatnot.  Persians can't resist a good party -- I sometimes joke that we would dress up for the opening of an envelope.  Hey, the glass is half full.

Being Persian and consequently having the eternal/hopeful optimist gene, I've been paying attention to the cautiously positive research on the recessionary versus the post recessionary consumer - and with good reason.  Our job as marketers is a cocktail of 1/3 data, 1/3 strategy and 1/3 eternal optimism so we should be taking this data and mapping out the best strategy possible to maximize success.

Last week, I pointed you in the direction of some research provided by The Futures Company which described behavioral nuances in this post recessionary environment.  In this post, I want to dig deeper into who will likely be our saviors and lead the way out of this mess (in traditional and innovative ways): The Millennials.  Lest anyone think about rolling their eyes and discounting this group of 10 - 28 year olds, this same dismissal of this very important demographic was one of the main reasons why President Obama won the 2008 election.  In short, they are a force to reckon with on a multitude of levels.

It's always good to have a refresher, I certainly needed it on Millennials, so I'd like to share with you some takeaways thanks to data published last month by Pew Research Center  The full report is full of great information but here are some basics:
  • They are the most ethnically and racially diverse group: 18.5% are Hispanic, 14.2% are black, 4.3% are Asian, 3.2% are mixed race/other and 59.8% are white (a record low for white).
  • They are the most politically progressive age group in recent times and they believe government should do more to solve problems.  They are more inclined to trust institutions than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
  • Social media is not a phenomenon to them so much as it is a fact of life.  Many text, tweet, have Facebook profiles, sleep with their phones, etc., so obtaining information from multiple sources is "normal" to them.
  • Millennials are on track to be the most educated generation in American history but are currently suffering high unemployment rates with many boomerang kids back at home with mom and dad.
  • Though they appear to be suffering the most, Millennials are the most optimistic about where the nation is going, partisan politics notwithstanding.
Why do Millennials mean so much to us?  Just yesterday, I came across some post recessionary shopper research from Kantar Retail and Price Waterhouse Coopers.  Aside from what is now standard caution that times have changed and that shopping hysteria is no more, the data noted that Gen Xers will be Prince Charming and wake us from the recessionary shopping slumber but that our longer term fortunes rest mostly with Sleeping Beauty, aka the Millennials.  Significantly, Millennials will gladly bear the burden of the larger ticket electronics purchases simply because cell phones, laptops, iPods, iPads, video games, etc., are must have will-die-without items that make their lives complete.

To be successful, relevant quality content must be king: what we say and how we say it is critical because both are correlated (and maybe cause) level of engagement.  Millennials have access to multiple forms of content in multiple channels which means that not only are they overwhelmed with information but, more importantly, they exercise choice as to what to tune into and what to reject.  And, yes, they do reject - research I saw yesterday indicate that 37% of 18 - 34 year olds surveyed have not purchased a brand because they found the advertising distasteful which was exactly on par with 55+ year olds.

So what does the term relevant quality content mean to a Millennial?  I see a lot of marketers talking about how Millennials respond to authenticity.  Um, True.  I would even say "duh" to that.  I'd argue that we all respond to authenticity.  I can't remember a time that I purchased something or encouraged a purchase based on superficiality or lies.  So I'm rather confused as to what does authenticity actually mean in this context.  Thanks to my desperate "Millennial authenticity" search on Google, I found this interesting post which I've excerpted for you because she says it better than I ever could:

"I don't think we as a generation (millennials) expect advertisers or marketing campaigns to be authentic. We're not insane.  I would venture to say, however, that what people mistake for "authenticity in marketing" is actually respect for one's audience.  This means an understanding of your audience, knowledge of their likes, dislikes, trends and interests.  This means ACTUALLY caring about what your audience cares about, not just finding something popular and creating a poor facsimile."

A-Ha.  We've spent so much time focusing on Boomers and Gen Xers, that we've forgotten to take the time to know Millennials (the older ones anyway) so it's been much easier to make assumptions than it's been to make an effort. We may have discounted Millennials too quickly because of their purported short attention spans and cell phone as appendage habits and now, as the oldest Millennials are almost 30(!) it's really time for us as Marketers to "know them" and "show them that we know them" as we've been instructed to do for all segments that have come before them.  This is especially critical if they truly are our Sleeping Beauty who will lead us into a post recessionary age.

In the next post, we're going to talk about some ways that we can do a better job as marketers to initiate and encourage conversations with Millennials.

Thanks for reading and give me a holler with your thoughts!


Parissa Behnia

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