Marketing as an industry has been obsessed with youth since Baby Boomers grabbed the reins 40 years ago and promptly focused the whole shebang on themselves (a very Boomer thing to do that is still a bad habit).
Marketing run by and for Youth, however, begins to run out of gas as a strategy when you recognize that all the money is still in Boomer pockets (and the pockets of their parents.) Why chase poor Millennials with millions of dollars in marketing spend when they cannot buy what you sell?
Here are some reasons people give:
Boomers follow what Millennials do, and buy what Millennials declare as “cool.”
This has some truth to it. Boomers are “forever 25″ and don’t want to be 60+. So they grab the trappings of youth with both hands and spend accordingly. This is why product managers of products that are targeted at Boomers clothe their messaging in youthful images. (Think health products and service, most notoriously drugs that help with erectil dysfunction. And recall Toyota’s initial success with its Scion nameplate was among Baby Boomers who wanted to appear cool, even though it was targeted at young Gen Xers.)
As Mark Bradbury asserted in a recent article on MediaPost, marketers can still wrap their products in the imagery of youth, but should try to win the hearts and wallets of Baby Boomers if they want to make real money. And Gen Xers are soon to join the 50+ segment, and have almost as much money as Boomers. So a strategy that works to extract business from Boomers will need just a little adjustment to work with Gen Xers.
What does that mean? Start using 30 or 40-something models in your marketing instead of kids. That is the image that Baby Boomers have of themselves, and the imagery they want to relate to.
Now you just have to make it so.
Consumer Packaged Goods companies are full of smart folks, even if they need to see the whites of the marketing opportunity’s eyes before pulling the trigger on significant investments in new promotional channels.
But mobile searching, beaconing and showrooming are now embedded in consumer behavior, and protecting market share means being there when the phone comes out and people are pinged by local retailers with offers.
Laurie Sullivan, writing for MediaPost, confirms that CPG giants are fully on board with local mobile communications, and are ramping up programs to promote their brands and help their merchants gain the shopper’s attention (and hold it.)
“By targeting custom audiences based on location,” writes Sullivan, “traffic patterns and habits, along with demographic and transactional information from matching mobile devices to household-level data, CPG ads generated a 74% increase in foot traffic and 56% lift in visit frequency via location-powered media for retailers.” Sullivan is referring to data from a new report by Verve, a xxxx company.
Strategically this is not news. Trade Promotion at the point-of-sale has always been a demand-driver for CPG brands, and drives trial through the retail locations. Moving the coupons to the phone is the key change, and technology is making such campaigning much more affordable and scalable.
What can a smaller business do, now that the Big Boys of Retail are horning into local digital marketing?
- Lean on those CPG companies for whom you sell to cut you in on the action.
- Keep your own efforts at permission marketing in high gear.
- Protect your turf by amassing a strong contact database within your market area.
- Ramp up referral programs that feature great values as rewards and promotions. Emphasize being truly local.
All of this activity is local, and smaller businesses still “do local” better than big national chains, so keep at it. Concede no ground!
I have written in the past that Millennials are less different than older generations than we think. Indeed, a lot of the “differences” are actually the same attributes and behavior patterns that Baby Boomers exhibited when they were the same age, once differences in technology and environment are taken into account.
Both generations rebelled against the prevailing culture as defined by their parents. Millennials are just rebelling (if you can even call it that) in a different way than their Baby Booming parents did.
In some key ways, however, this new generation is redefining how one builds a life, and what one cherishes as important. I just spotted a great article that captures the unique characteristics of Millennials in a clear and usefully brief way.* The key points that I think people should take away:
Millennials seek to collect experiences rather than “stuff” or “toys.” Unlike their Baby Boomer parents, they are tending (so far) not to define themselves by what they own, but by what they choose to do.
This could change: Baby Boomers also were anti-materialistic as a way to separate themselves from their parents, and came back to materialism once they “settled down.” Millennials don’t seem to be using anti-materialism as aggressively as Baby Boomers, however. This means they might actually stick with it longer because it is less of a rebellion and more of a preference.
“The redefinition of ownership culture for Millennials is all about putting a premium on experiences and sharing those experiences,” writes Kipp Jarecky-Cheng in the article. “Status symbols such as fancy cars and lavishly appointed homes—big-ticket items that once defined previous generations’ conspicuous consuming behavior—simply don’t elicit the same thrill for Millennials. Instead, status updates on Millennials’ social channels and visual artifacts that showcase rich, deeply felt experiences—whether they’re Facebook pics showing them in exclusive faraway locales or Instagram pics of exotic eats–provide greater clout for Millennials than the most expensive luxury goods ever could for them.”
Baby Boomers were famous for saying “you can’t take it with you,” but seem to have dropped that mantra as a guiding tenet of their behavior. Millennials have rediscovered it, and are redefining it in their own, perhaps more lasting way.
Marketers take note: If you can wrap your product or service into experience, or make it the channel through which experiences can flow, you may have a more successful time capturing this generation’s attention and affection.
What do you think? Will Millennials maintain this less materialistic cultural norm over time, or come back to the pack once they pass thirty and finally start those families and set up house?
*The article is on MediaPost, which may require registration.
A recent post about LinkedIn’s networking power that I placed on Forbes.com struck a nerve in the legal community. My usually small but steady readership leapt up by a factor of five. The trigger? I focused on how hard it is for smaller organizations and solo practitioners to find the time to invest consistently in online networking. Then I gave a short story about an active small-firm lawyers that cemented the learning, which is standard marketing practice. Finally, I offered a value by stepping through how any small businessperson could construct his or her day and evening to take fuller advantage of all that LinkedIn has to offer.
I struggle with the same time constraints other independent practitioners do: Most of my professional time is dedicated to delivering on my value promise to clients. The meagre balance that remains outside of family time (all-important!) does get devoted to my own business development.
So what I shared in the post is applicable to all of us, and I have found that following my own advice (!) has paid dividends just as it has for Mr. Poniatowski (the lawyer I cited in the article.)
So, I recommend this particular Forbes.com post highly, on the recommendation of others!
In my most recent column on Forbes.com, I lamented the tendency of copywriters to bend the rules of grammar in search of “punchiness, pithiness and brevity.” This has led to the writers following rather than leading in protecting the standard of English that is acceptable as proper. The most obvious rule that gets bent or forgotten is the use of adverbs. Example:
“You should shop local” instead of “You should shop locally.”
“Buying direct saves you money” rather than “Buying directly saves you money.”
Much as a teenager might give more credence to the casual English spoken by his or her sports coaches above that of the English teacher (example: “You did good” is far more common on sports fields than “you did well.”), so poor grammar that appears multiple times in marketing materials begins to gain acceptance as “OK.”
In marketing, that can be dangerous for smaller businesses without large media budgets: You never know whether your desired prospect cares about English grammar, and will grade you down if you use casual rather than formal English in your written content (business letters, e-mails, blog posts, direct mailers, ads…). And you can’t spend millions to cement your poor grammar as acceptable.
Why take that risk? Get someone to proofread your written material to check for grammar errors, and correct them.
It only takes a few minutes, and has a lot more upside than downside:
- People who don’t know grammar well will not notice, and not ding you for taking the time to write correctly.
- People who do know grammar will raise and eyebrow and say “Hey, here’s an outfit that appreciates what is important to me.”
You know how hard it is to break through and make a good impression when a prospect is ready to engage with your content. Why risk a bad connection by letting poor grammar slip into your published work?
Click through to the Forbes article for more on this, including stiff rebuke of Hyundai for contributing to the eradication of the adverb from English!
Great movie. Too bad about the ending!
The value of generating links between your site and others still impacts your organic search results (part of a good SEO breakfast). But it takes an enormous amount of time and resources that you may not have, or cannot afford to hire.
Some link-building may still be worth pursuing, however, as it adds value to the reader of your content, and presents you as a more thoughtful content creator.
So I recommend you explore some of the 13 recommended link-building tactics in this column by Robbie Richards, who clearly spend a huge number of hours chasing substantive links for his clients.
By “some” I mean perhaps two. You do not want to overwhelm yourself with tasks and wear yourself out. Our pal Robbie clearly is a high-energy dynamo who doesn’t sleep, and you may not be able to match his pace. So set your own, starting with those tactics that most attract you as interesting activities that will keep your attention and stay on your to-do list.
Set appointments in your calendar with the tactics you choose. And keep those appointments just as if they were appointments will prospective clients (which, in a way, they are)!
You will see that there is a lot of outreach to real opinion/thought leaders in each of the 13 tactics listed. That is the key to creating links that Google and other search engine algorithms will value:
The sites that link to your content share your keyword sets.
Those sites have a lot of other sites linked to them that exhibit similar “real” connections.
Pursue connections with people who have sites that seem to rank highly within your own industry profile.
Bite off only as much as you can safely digest. Add more as each tactic is mastered and bears fruit. Drop tactics that you cannot make work within a few months or so.
Let me know how it all works out!
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to select my own handful of tactics to test.
I focus a lot of client attention on Baby Boomers, because they have the disposible income today, and are still freer spenders than the generations that are succeeding them. If you have a need to make money today, you must focus on those people who have it.
Millennials do not yet have gobs of money to spend, so all the attention paid to them as “the coming thing” is still a bet on the future.
However, it pays to understand the radical differences between generations if you have a product or service that all of them could buy.
So this article by Samantha Sharf on Forbes.com is a useful read, because it nails down what may be an enduring characteristic of Generation Y that anyone selling product over the next decade should keep top-of-mind:
Millennials have been tempered by the Great Recession, and may very well keep that sense of economic “fear” with them all their lives. Whereas Baby Boomers are inveterately optimisitic about the future because their formative years were free of significant economic malaises (Mid-70′s oil shocks being the only significant events), Millennials share with the Greatest Generation the idea that our economic house of cards cannot be entirely trusted.
Millennials are giving indications that they are going to be better savers of money than Baby Boomers, and a bit more risk-averse than Generation X.
This generation will remain less loyal to brands than older generations (partly because there is so much more choice, and information about those choices, instantly available to them through their web of connectivity.)
They will retain a need to have their lives and work tied to a meaningful cause. Intrinsic value of the work being done will matter more to them. Caveat here: Baby Boomers started out with this mindset, too, and it faded as the need to make money and raise families became paramount. So this need for meaninfulness could weaken with Millennials as well.
Ms. Sharf’s article is focused on how to make financial advisory services relevant and accessible to Millennials, who will have wealth to invest sooner in their lives than Baby Boomers did. How can your product or service relate to these emerging Millennial consumer characteristics?
- How does your value proposition help save the world? By this I don’t mean you have to cure cancer of resolve international conflicts, but do you work to save resources, keep carbon out of the air, be a good steward of your environment? Emphasize how you do that in your outreach.
- How practical are you? Why should your brand stay on their radar? What need do you solve for them that proves your worth? Spend less time simply establishing your brand, and relatively more on proving its worth with stories from your actual marketplace.
- How can you help them achieve their balance of social good and personal security? If they are less grandly aspirational than preceeding generations, reflect than sense of future ansgt in your messaging.
Because of their enforced tempering by the Great Recession, Millennials are indeed going to act much more like their grandparents than their parents in the marketplace. This is a characteristic that we all need to track closely as they fully mature into a consumer group with their own resources over the next decade.
I am pleased to annouce that I have been invited to join a fun and productive new venture called Moxie and Pluck, a business consultancy that focuses exclusively on helping smaller businesses grow.
Their motto: Purveyors to the Modest Enterprise
This gives you the sense that this group is interested in the whole health of their client’s business. The focus of our advise and activity is on improving the ability of our clients to perform sales and marketing initiatives, but other partners in the group can provide:
- Legal and business documentation services
- Administrative services
Small enterprises do not need to add employees to grow. They need to add expertise and seasoned hands that can quickly grow revenue and keep costs contained. That means part-time consultancy engagements with folks like Moxie and Pluck can be just the ticket.
And I have the honor of participating with marketing articles on their blog, too.
I very much look forward to seeing how this partnership develops!
I monitor my sons’ activity online, and so I get all the promotional e-mails that come from their accounts. Most of it is harmless (and a lot of it well done!). Some, though, offer me lessons for my own business.
The e-mail I received late last week from World of Tanks took the cake so far for 2014: A Valentine’s Day promotion for online tank battles!
I understand the urge: Businesses work hard to leverage holidays as promotional opportunities. The holiday is top-of-mind with their customers, and they want to hitch a ride on that awareness. But this tie-in makes a (perhaps intentional) joke of the impulse.
I can imagine the strategy discussion in the marketing planning meeting.
- “What holidays are coming up that offer us a neat promotional opportunity?”
- “Well, one of the tanks we have in the game is a Valentine (the British were creative in naming their tanks!). We could riff off of that for Valentines Day.”
- “Excellent! An inside joke that the gamers will get! Let’s cue it up!”
Where was the saner head in the room pointing out the tenuous connection between battlefield mayhem and love?
Here is the explanation that comes with the “Valentanks” promotion (the bolding for emphasis is mine):
“Some of the most important parts of love involve companionship and a deep understanding of one another. We have Happy Valentanks Weekend to celebrate that, and we think it’s done best with the below Crew bonuses and Platoon-themed achievements, the latter having some lovely bonuses for completion. In addition, it wouldn’t be Valentanks without discounts and bonuses on the Valentine vehicles, plus the Matilda. All this and more in this special event!”
And, just to complete the picture, here is the visual:
Not many valentine greetings come with a tank barrel staring you down.
The point is, as a marketer you don’t have to jump on every bandwagon (or halftrack) that rolls by. If there is not a real need to tie in to a particular holiday, do not waste your time and energy creating a promotion that can end up more of a distraction than a help. You may create some amusement, but also some consumer confusion.
I could be wrong about this, of course. It may prove to be one of the most successful holiday promotions World of Tanks has ever run. If someone wants to point out in the comments just what might make that happen, please do!
For over a decade I have been an occasional contributor to Forbes.com. I started as a book reviewer, and made enough of an impression to wheedle my way into a role as a commentator on Small Business Marketing challenges. That ultimately settled into a column the editor dubbed “Marketing Nuts and Bolts.”
My most recent post shared a topline checklist for stress-testing your current marketing mix.
The most popular post I ever wrote remains one about the plusses and minuses of buying ads in printed yellow page books. Written in 2011, it still gets views, so that topic must still resonate with small businesspeople!
I would consider it an honor if you browsed the article list to see if any particular topic could be of value to you in promoting your business. And I love feedback, so if you find anything particularly enlightening, or boneheaded, please leave a comment with your perspective. I never stop learning. I hope you don’t either!