Alastaire Allday I got in a bit of an argument today with some folks over at The Ad Contrarian's plac e (although not with Bob hi...

Millennials: Do they really matter ?

Alastaire Allday

I got in a bit of an argument today with some folks over at The Ad Contrarian's place (although not with Bob himself who, despite the fact I don't always agree with him, I immensely respect).

You see, Bob, in his usual, trademark style, decided to write off millennials as “nasty little bedwetters with no money... waiting for their parents to die... narcissistic... jerk offs... pissing away their money on pink headphones". Ouch.

His point was that you shouldn't bother wasting your media budget on people with no money. It's a fair though not entirely accurate point. If you're selling £60k luxury cars, don't spend all your money targeting teenagers. They're not your target market. If, on the other hand, you're selling neon-pink headphones, perhaps you'd better learn what it is millennials want and meet them where they live -- on social media and on the web.

And that, I suppose, was my problem with Bob's post. Instead of taking time to learn what the next generation's tastes and interests are, Bob's simply written them off as selfie obsessed narcissists. Who don't spend that much money. Yet.

But as a marketer who is, alas, definitely not getting any younger, I can think of plenty of good reasons to pay attention to the young. 

For starters, nobody else is getting any younger either. Today's cash-poor, debt-saddled young adults are the cash rich consumers of tomorrow. There probably aren't many 21 year olds buying Porsches. But I dare say most middle-aged purchasers looked at those cars when they were younger and said of these objects of desire "one day I will own one of these". As any tobacco company will tell you, marketing works best when you hook 'em when they're young.

More importantly, the young are at the cutting edge of technological innovation. 

Take Facebook as an example. Once exclusively populated by the under 25s, Facebook's demographic has grown older and older. I'm sure a decade ago smartphones were the preserve of a young, tech savvy crowd, too. Now these platforms are key drivers of sales to older, wealthier demographics -- we look to the young of today to see the trends of tomorrow. And by tomorrow I don't mean in fifty years' time, I mean in five.

As you'd expect from someone of his generation who's seen countless fads come and go, The Ad Contrarian has an understandable world-weary cynicism about industry hype. But writing off millennials just because they don't have that much money (right now) ignores the fact we can learn from them, engage with them and yes, even sell them things.

But only if we treat them as adult consumers. Would you want to buy anything from a person or agency or brand that sees you as just another narcisstic, selfie-obsessed idiot to be caricatured or ignored? 

Are we really so dismissive of the millennial generation that we think they can be bought off with a few shiny colours? Apple seemed to think so when they released the iPhone 5C. Yesterday they admitted they "badly misjudged" demand for the product, wiping $40bn off their share price. A costly mistake.

This is what happens when you get old guys marketing to young people who don't take the time to meet them where they actually are. 

You end up trying to sell them something based on a stereotype because you haven't bothered to learn what it is they want. That, or you miss out on the next big thing entirely. Be honest -- how many of you spent years playing catch up because you thought Facebook was a fad that marketers shouldn't take seriously? 

I'll admit for the first couple of years I never dreamed anyone over the age of 25 would ever use it. Now my parents use Facebook more than me.

Are you or your brand making the same mistakes now about Instagram or Pinterest or Snapchat?

How can you avoid falling into the grumpy old man trap and consigning your brand to eventual irrelevancy? It's really very simple. Don't dismiss people who are younger than you, or who have different values to you, or -- heaven forbid -- don't have any money yet. Some of them may be influencing their parents, others may become loyal consumers when they're older.

Obviously if you're selling zimmer frames I wouldn't recommend throwing the full weight of your marketing budget into Snapchat. But if you're, say, a luxury brand aiming to appeal to anyone over the age of 30, I'd be paying close attention to today's millennials. They're tomorrow's customers - but only if you take time to engage with them where they are - on new and emerging social channels.

Ignore the future at your peril. Embrace it and reap the rewards.

You may also like

Powered by Blogger.