Monday, June 29, 2015

The herd mentality and marketing to Millennials (and others)

There's a reason for this image. 

And we'll get to it in a minute.

But first, there's this. Much of the ad and marketing world is abuzz these days with Millennials and How to Reach Them. (Millennials being defined as 18-35 years old, although the 35 upper limit seems a bit high to me.)

Anyway, the latest to court this group is Marriott. They are determined to snag Millennial business and hired a consulting firm that specializes in communicating with Millennials.

Never mind that some of the Rules of Engagement that firm came up with seem either pretentious or obvious. (Millennials needs to be convinced of the value of a product through storytelling, or millennials value companies that have a powerful vision.) The assault on Millennials isn't necessarily right for everybody. Hillary Stout in a terrific article in the New York Times on June 21 said it this way: "Some analysts and consumers have begun to ask, what about the rest of us?"

Good question.

There is no question that Millennials are a good target, but as the market research firm Forrester said in their report The Kids Are Overrated. Don't Worry About Millennials, "that while some companies have to target Millennials because of the nature of their products, most don't need to."

Here are a few things to consider:

 - The Millennial generation has less wealth and more debt than other generations did at the same age. (Hello, student loan debt.)

- Baby boomers are bigger spenders than most, "unhip though they may be."

- Older shoppers make up a larger segment of the population than ever before.

- Boomers have more discretionary income and more free time in which to spend it.

Here's a link to a good article on the topic and, if you subscribe to the New York Times online, you can search "Oh, To Be Young Millennial And Oh So Wanted By Marketers" by Hillary Stout.

Look, there are good arguments for targeting any particular segment, and I'm not suggesting that this is an either/or kinda thing. What I am suggesting is that running headlong after Millennials may or may not be a good idea. It kind of depends on what you're selling.

Are Millennials good targets for things like Cadillacs, high-end vacation resorts, wealth management, Brooke Brothers suits or Dockers?. Maybe. But maybe not.

 . . . and this brings me to the image above.

It's from that great Emerald City Sequence in The Wiz. First the residents all "want to be seen green." That is, until The Wiz (Richard Prior) tells them all that "Green is dead. 'Til I change my mind, the color's red." And they all celebrate red. That is, until he comes back on the PA and says "The ultimate yellow brick is gold. That's the new color children." And everybody scurries to embrace gold.

That sequence always comes to my mind when the herd mentality takes over in the advertising and marketing arena. Green becomes red becomes gold and everybody jumps on board. Millennials are the only target worth having and everybody jumps on board.

The voices telling us this are a lot of the same voices that who told us that the only thing worth having in your marketing mix was a web site. Then told us all that worked was digital advertising and everything else was dead. Then they let us know that only re-targeting worked and then only Google search words. What's next?

They are probably all channeling the people who said print was dead when radio came out, radio was dead when television came out and on and on. Whatever happened to integrated marketing?

I don't want to sound like some sort of old get-off-my-lawn coot, but this follow-the-leader mentality just honks me no end. It seems to be the antithesis to everything I thought advertising was about. Which is to say, creativity and original thought . . .

 . . .  and not just pursuing that Shiny New Thing because everybody else is. Didn't your mother ever ask you "Well if Johnny jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff?"

We have a lot of target markets available to us these days and we're able to hone in pretty closely to the ones that suit our product or service best. We also have a lot of tools at our disposal with which to do it.

We should use 'em.