As a marketing student, I have been faced with the question a million times: How can brands effectively reach millennials? There are hundreds of books and videos and all kinds of materials on the matter. The problem is the people who come up with all these ideas about what millennials want are not themselves millennials.
There are some awful commercials out there that are designed to supposedly “resonate” with a younger generation. Think about the process that leads to the development of these things. At this very second, there are a bunch of middle aged men sitting in a conference room trying to figure this stuff out. Meanwhile while they struggle to come up with ideas, an intern who knows exactly what this generation wants is getting them coffee.
It’s classic generational bias. Corporations run by old guys with no imagination are too stupid to simply ask millennials what they want. Instead, it’s a constant guessing game that never seems to work out. So as a representative for millennials, I would like to offer some feedback based on some trends that I have seen.
First off, being on social media doesn’t automatically guarantee you’ll get a millennial’s business. Companies act like just the fact that they can come up with a hashtag makes their brand any more special than the rest. News flash: you’re not the first company to have an Instagram account. It is going to take a little bit more than a tweet to get our attention.
Secondly, don’t try so hard. Millennials can smell the scent of desperation from a mile away. We value authenticity so just be yourself. By now everyone has seen the controversial Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad. This was just a classic example of the people at Pepsi trying way too hard to be in tune with what their core demographic wants. That level of incompetence is much closer to other brands out there then one would think.
Lastly, stay in your lane. It is paramount for companies to understand the core competencies of their brand. If you make apparel that my dad wears then keep making stuff for my dad. You’re not going to be able to reach me so stop trying. Spending millions of dollars on a new campaign is more often not only a waste of money but time. Brands have identities and it is difficult to change a perception after it is already cast. It is a time in history where many companies are dying out as their core customer base ages. Unfortunately, that is just a reality they’re going to have to accept.
On behalf of all millennials, I implore corporations to humble themselves and ask for help. We know you don’t know what we want. Half the time we don’t know what we want but when we do, I can promise we’ll let you know. You’ve just got to be open enough to listen.