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An Open Letter to Millennials

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An Open Letter to Millennials
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Five years ago, I gave a presentation about Millennial Marketing at Loyalty Expo, the industry mecca for Loyalty Marketing professionals. Today, I read several articles that popped up in my Google Alert citing the latest study of Millennial behaviors conducted jointly by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Barkley, and Service Management Group (SMG).

The difference in what we know today versus 5 years ago? Not much.

Yes, the study by BCG, like many others over recent months, documents what we suspected we knew about you 5 years ago with quantitative measures. Apparently, the progress we Boomer-marketers have made understanding you has not been great, we’ve just been able to confirm what we suspected all along.

Surveying the range of interpretations of this study data by people in the know, we can say that Millennials now outnumber Boomers, and that they are “Engaged, Optimistic, and Charitable”. Possibly the most useful declaration among the current flood of articles is that “defining the Millennial Market is not as clear cut as you think”.

From my chair, I think it’s time to extend an olive branch to Generation Y. Instead of relentlessly attempting to analyze and categorize characteristics of your up and coming populous in order to sell more things to you, maybe we should round up a few chairs and have a frank conversation at the round-table. Considering that you’re soon going to be more important to brands than any other group on the planet, this seems to make a lot of sense to me.

When I get my chance, there are a few things I would ask:

  • As digital natives, you’re always connected with your networks and have one of several devices close by to communicate with them. But which ones do you consider “private” and which do you allow to be peppered with ads, offers, deals and freebies?
  • Let me go deeper. Since you don’t set up your voice mail and never turn your phone off, it seems the missed call log is the principal way you monitor who wants to reach you the “old fashioned way”. That said, I have a feeling that multiple missed calls from Nordstrom or Best Buy will not be embraced as “they love me”, but more like “they annoy me”. Do you agree?
  • If reaching you by a voice call is not your preference, how about SMS? Even though you text each other until your fingers bleed, it seems there are few instances where you think of SMS as a commercial channel. Outside of just-in-time deal offers from your local frozen yogurt or smoothie shop, I’m not sure that invading your favorite means of talking with friends is a good idea. Agree?
  • Twitter? Foursquare? From what I can tell, usage of these services is more popular in the older age ranges of your generation. So far Twitter and Foursquare have been used by AmEx, Walgreens and others to make you engage in lab-rat forms of behavior. Ring the bell once, you get the cheese. Your tendency to want it “fast and now” might make this work, but will you reject the perception of being manipulated?
  • Maybe our entire conversation should just run through Facebook. After all, this is where you spend hours on end updating personal notes, reading reviews, and browsing retail catalogs.  But before I put all my chips on Facebook, I notice that lots of you still like to “showroom” in the mall to touch and feel products that you’ve researched online before you buy them. Agree?

What I’m really wondering about is how your proclivity for research pre-purchase and need for immediate gratification will impact our attempts to win your loyalty over the long term for any brand. It seems the need for immediacy, accuracy, value, service and a good price are a cocktail hard for most brands to swallow on a consistent basis.

You should know that we’re really trying to connect with you, and the smart ones among our Boomer-marketer group are sincerely attempting to deliver value communicated through the channel that suits you best. While you might think that points and miles are “lame”, we have other ways to make retail commerce fun and to recognize your value with the extras that make you feel special. Playing games is just a part of it, and our new take on Social Loyalty should convince you we’re on the right track.

Can we sit down and have that conversation? I promise not to treat you like a lab-rat.

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