Selling to millennials is not rocket science;it just requires having the right attitude and handing over more control.
Picture the scene in the Saunders household:
In my role as ‘Domestic IT Manager’ I have installed high speed broadband, but to say the least it is unstable.
When it loses connection, a chorus of abuse issues forth from the bedrooms of my children (aged 23 and 21) – when they are home that is.
The impatient generation
For this is not just an empowered, but an impatient generation. Can’t find the info? Then you are way off the pace as far as they are concerned. Poor customer service? Expect them to tweet about it or post on social media. In an age of super-abundance (in media at least) they know they have a choice. They see being connected as a human right and not a privilege.
Millennials expect to be able to find an online video on most topics. YouTube has turned into a millennial search engine. Want to know how to do your hair in the style of Game of Thrones? They know they will find a video about it. As for cats and kittens doing funny things and looking cute, there is no end to them in the online world.
Boomers are the spoilt generation – not their kids
I don't mean to disparage this millennial impatience, their love of online videos and the fact that they can’t go five minutes without checking their mobiles. I think they are a much more impressive generation than mine – the baby boomers.
Boomers in the 60s and 70s did this without much thought for the consequences. We were happy for businesses to sell us stuff without much thought about such things as recycling, the environmental impact of manufacturing or the way the workers (who made the stuff) got treated.
No longer, as far as Millennials are concerned.
"Businesses that talk about and deliver a wider social good are preferred. Surveys show that this matters much more to them than their parents."
Related reading: How lofty is your brand?.
Take getting a job
I don't say it was easy for me in the 1980s – yet there were more jobs going. I sent out my CV with a cover letter and I could get interviews. Nowadays that cuts no ice. A good degree is just table stakes. Millennial job seekers have to build a whole story of commitment, passion and public good works into their CVs to get shortlisted. Those who win the race for the prized job are already accomplished and resilient sales people. They create their own professional and personal brands in ways that I never had to or dreamt of. Millennials, then, know the branding and selling game from the inside.
In my youth people who started businesses were middle aged. The business leaders Millennials admire are members of their own generation. The digital revolution has completely changed our ideas about what an entrepreneur looks like. Think of the internet as a huge global platform that has made the barriers to starting a business lower than ever. It is something you can think about doing in your 20s
The new kings and queens of online video
A whole new generation of stars who have risen because they have the imaginations, personalities and technical skills to make their own films at very low cost. Millennials feel connected to new online stars – like PewDiePie or Zoella – who look a bit like them and they trust their advice rather than an older authority figure.
Hand over the reigns
It pays to think of Millennial employees as potential entrepreneurs. The best of them will leave unless the organization provides them with an outlet for their talents. They already master social platforms – like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LiinkedIn, Pinterest, and Snapchat.
A boomer might lump these all together and call them ‘social media’; a Millennial understands that each of them might play a distinct role in their lives. And it is that level of knowledge that a brand must have if it is to work out how to use these platforms in brand promotion
"Millennials feel that the digital revolution is their revolution and that many boomers just don't “get it” .They are probably right. There is nothing worse than the trendy uncle trying to look cool at a party that has been created for his nephews and nieces."
Help us to connect to Millennials
At Google I meet many brand owners. A constant refrain goes like this – “Our profile is too old, we need to be relevant to the Millennial generation.”
In sum you are talking to a tough-minded and resilient generation who have had to work hard to get where they are They have yet to pay off their student loan and that makes them quite focused to get on and earn more. They don't expect much help from the state – they are self-reliant. They are empowered by technology, impatient and vigilant about the motives of business and they fully understand the branding and marketing game.
Now, this might not describe all Millennials but if you are in a service business (and most of us are at some level) it is wise to plan with the toughest customers in mind.
So my final bit of advice for fellow boomers, who might be running a business or managing a brand, is this:
Have a look at what you are doing online and especially on mobile. You may like it, but that is not the point. Are you suffering from trendy uncle syndrome? Are you trying hard but somehow not quite speaking the language of Millennials? If so, now might be the time to hand control of your brand to some of those highly motivated and entrepreneurial Millennials in your marketing department.
Come to think of it I am going to resign from my job of ‘Domestic IT Manager’ and pass it on to my daughter. She will make a better fist of it.