thoughts at 2am

Like most marketing strategists, we chew on problems and ideas for a while…knowing that our litany of solutions and thoughts on the topic aren’t *quite* the right fit. Then suddenly, we wake one day at 2am and all the clues/signs from disparate sources come together in a flash, and voila: perfect clarity.

Millennials. Make it there and you can make it anywhere

Here’s the punchline:  the generalized behavior/demands of Millennials should guide all choices in marketing, period.

Here’s how we got there.

It’s almost laughable how Millennials have exaggeratedly become the antichrist in certain generational marketing circles.  And when we advise clients on website redesigns, communication strategy, and social media solutions, we often hear back some version of this refrain: “Millennials aren’t really our market, so a lot of these technological bells & whistles are unnecessary.”

First of all, let’s set aside the fact that “Millennials aren’t really our market” as an entirely erroneous and outdated claim, which stems from the weird Sharks-vs-Jets mentality that Boomers (and possibly Gen Xers) have with Millennials.  Today’s Millennials range in age from (roughly) 24-40, many with double-income households and families of their own.  They are – most decidedly – a significant target audience for travel industry marketing, and certainly for all of our own clients.

But more importantly, and here’s the thing that’s been bugging us: why do so many people associate the need for technological efficiency with Millennials…and assume that it’s the only generation to whom this matters?

The juxtaposition of two recent encounters we’ve had brought this misguided perception into sharp focus:

  1. In a talk by Alicia Rainwater of The Center for Generational Kinetics, she pointed out that – as a group – Millennials aren’t tech-savvy… they’re tech-dependent. Yes, they may fear technology less than older generations, but that’s only because they grew up as technology increased its pace (thanks, invention of the internet) and made them more accustomed to rapid advancement.  This doesn’t mean they know how technology WORKS, but they have been exposed to technology that works smoothly and efficiently and they’ve become reliant upon that.  This means they get frustrated when technology DOESN’T work smoothly and efficiently because they know it’s possible.  They likely don’t know how to program your website, but they know damn well how it could work better because they’ve used other (better) websites.

 

  1. While organizing the Redpoint archives, we came across this hilarious – and ironically clever – video by Stephen Parkhurst that we used as part of a training program on “Selling to Millennials” back in 2014. It’s a thoughtful reminder that no generation can claim the title to Best Decisions or Best Behavior, and that every generation is going to look askance at the ones before and after it.

After marinating on these encounters for a bit, here’s what hit us one night at 2am:  every generation wants things (procedures, processes, life) to be as easy as possible, but they define “easy” differently depending on the circumstances of their generation.  Millennials grew up with lightning speed technology available to them, so when things get clunky, they get frustrated.  “Easy” to them are things like (for example):

  • Fewest clicks to find what I want on a website
  • Websites that load quickly on all pages (like…instantly)
  • An app that simplifies the path to my goal
  • Mobile-friendliness that isn’t second fiddle to a desktop option
  • Visuals/videos that tell a story so I don’t have to read a lot of text
  • Seamless transition between tech interfaces (because surely we’ve figured out how to make all technologies talk to each other by now, right?)
  • Customer service available in all formats – text, social, email, phone, app… whatever

Now we ask you this:  do you think a 65-year-old would prefer to work hard to find stuff on your website?  Or prefer to interact with an inefficient booking engine?  Or never try to look you up on their phone?

And if you think Millennials text more than Boomers… we’ve got a few grandparents for you to meet.

The point is… the demands and behaviors that societal generalization lays at the doorstep of Millennials are simply TODAY’S BEST PRACTICES IN MARKETING.

This doesn’t mean you can ignore the so-called old school tactics.  “Easy” also means there should be a brochure available if that’s how I prefer to consume my information, a real-live-person available to talk to (or text with) if I want it, and complete versions of your website wherever I look… desktop, tablet, mobile.  So…“easy” means efficient, but it also means information options that cater to my preferences, which may differ in different circumstances.

The existence of Millennials did not create this situation.  The evolution of technology and the escalating speed/availability of information created it.  Millennials just happened to be born in tandem with this, and so we wrongly attribute all this desire for simplicity and efficiency to their behaviors.  This also means that historic, long-standing brands shouldn’t summarily dismiss the use of emerging communication channels as “not their market.”  Rather, they should bring their own voice and vibe to life on those channels.

So…back to the punchline:  the generalized behavior/demands of Millennials should guide all choices in marketing, period.  Because it’s not “The Millennials” you’re catering to…it’s just what people have come to expect because they know it exists.  Make it easy.  Make it efficient.  Every generation will love you for it.