The Challenge of Reaching the Technological Generation
The generation that has grown up in the digital age is looking at your message – through saturated eyeballs. The demographic, which, according to Strauss and Howe’s Generations: The History of America’s Future includes those born between 1981 and 2001, are tech savvy and financially armed. Called “millenials”, this broad market has become easier to reach but harder to convince.
The group consists of roughly 42 million Americans from age 10 to 30. Multiple studies have shown this generation to be more educated, compassionate, deliberate and socially conscious. It also has the distinction of being the first to connect primarily through electronic media. In fact, most claim to own at least two portable communication devices.
So they are tuned in, but millenials are constantly scanning, responding, reacting and deleting. With so many messages bombarding their senses, occupying a brain space through electronic media is daunting. It becomes critical for marketers to consider their messages’ timing, channel, response mechanism and feedback loop.
Viral marketing sometimes attracts attention, but Samantha Skey, an executive with Alloy Media and Marketing, says millenials will “ignore messages that don’t seem relevant.”
The challenge is to create messages that resonate but do not annoy. The 20th century strategy of proclaiming benefits through structured, static messages will not work with this group; millenials respond more to the nuanced codes and informal rules of behavior that are exhibited through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
This crowd has a better grasp on creating image, understanding public response and managing media. They design their identity, and change it often to exhibit a fluid identity. Frontline marketers are mimicking this behavior by creating multiple personalities that engage prospects with humor, distraction and product placement. As Nick Shore, MTV’s Senior Vice President of Consumer Insights and Research, writes “brands are already starting to play with fluid identity in a way that’s native and natural to millenials.”
This generation has been granted a breadth of communication devices unsurpassed in previous generations. For many, each communication method represents a specific real-life meeting method: One respondent to a recent MTV survey remarked “sending an email is like going out to dinner, (while) Facebook is like getting coffee or just seeing someone at the store.”
Growing up during the significant economic downturn of recent years has made the millennial crowd more skeptical and demanding. A Pew Research Center study of 2,020 millenials showed two out of three respondents claim “you can’t be too careful” when dealing with people. This requires a marketer to gain trust by making his pitch engaging, relatable, accessible and responsive.
A brand builder’s feedback loop is now an important component of its marketing strategy. As Shore’s survey showed, millenials are stricken with “like-aholism” – an addiction to feedback. He writes “over 60% demand immediate feedback for text messages, and almost 70% for IM/Facebook chat. And a majority of the millenials we studied demanded same-day feedback for all digital communication platforms.”
One marketing strategy that appears to be gaining ground is tapping into the millenial’s sense of civic engagement. A study of 260,000 college freshmen by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found that over 66% responded that community volunteerism is “essential or very important.”
Social media provide effective marketing platforms for certain products, such as clothing, food, cars and other retail items. However, the jury is still out on how effective this medium is for consumer services, business-to-business services and government services.