I can’t tell. Is the entire universe enamored with, or terrified of, millennials? Without question, they have emerged as the demographic most often mentioned in an initial phone call with a prospective client, and the last thing raised during a marketing meeting. It usually goes something like: “Make sure millennials will like it,” or “Let me run it by my daughter… she is a millennial.”
But what many of my collaborators and I actually hear, is the subtext of this conversation, which is: “OMG we are NOTHING without millennials! If this doesn’t appeal to millennials, we are doomed. Insignificant. Done.”
First, let’s calm down. Millennials represent about one-quarter of the buying power according to retail analysts who are tracking these things (by the minute, it seems.) That leaves 75% of the rest of us who also have money and (actually) buy things.
Second, millennials may not be as exotic, omniscient, and powerful as we’ve made them out to be. Yes, they think differently and shop differently than a 60-year old consumer, but what they may really represent is a more honest and efficient approach to selling products or consuming content.
- They don’t respond well to hype, over-selling or noise – neither do you.
- They want to “buy from” not be “sold to.” So do you.
- They want to know what their friends think. So do we, but we share over a conversation in-person as opposed to sharing online.
- They buy from their devices, rather than their desktop. That’s becoming truer for all of us.
- They want all of the information in a single sentence, or better yet – a hashtag. Secretly, you sort of agree.
See where I’m going? It may be that when it comes to being consumers, we really aren’t all that different. Yes, there are differences (I’m not discounting my retail people and their lengthy discourse on the subject) but millennials, and their short attention spans, have also contributed to creating efficiencies that are representative of most attention spans, not just theirs. After all is said and done, the result of our current obsession with them may actually end up being better, more transparent marketing.
See, when brands make big shifts in their businesses and make key marketing decisions in service to one demographic or trend, it has a limiting effect. It restricts quality thinking about how those people or topics will grow, change and evolve. Millennials will mature like all generations before them (we sincerely hope) and along with better work ethics and less entitled attitudes, will grow into people who think for themselves, rely less on peer input, and use the same devices the rest of us use to buy the stuff they want, at the right price, through the most efficient platforms, from the brands they trust. At that point we will welcome them to the 75% who feel the same way and do the same thing.
Does Gen Y matter? Sure.
But I caution us to stop glorifying their thinking to be more rarefied than it is. It may not look so different from what you also appreciate from the worlds’ marketing departments.
Funny, disarming, short-form, real, inspired, truthful, provocative – or – just on sale. Not so different.