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The Danger of Oversimplifying Millennials: Why I Miss Mail

BY JOSH HONER, PLANNER/BUYER.

I remember years ago, when I was a wee lad and the greatest concern on the horizon was the upcoming weekly spelling quiz, and being extremely excited about…post. Getting post was a huge novelty that as a child you rarely were able to experience, so on the rare occasions I did get post it would be ripped open as I laughed gleefully, my hands shaking with anticipation before triumphantly pulling out the sacred 90gsm A4 sheet as though I had just won a golden ticket. Hopefully this doesn’t reflect badly on my childhood personality - although let’s face it, it probably does.

However one memory that stands out to me more than my love of post was my parent’s hate of it. I vividly remember my disbelief and confusion at my parent’s disinterested and sometimes concerned reaction as they saw the postman approaching.

As I got older, obviously my reaction to getting post diminished (my hands no longer shake), but the feeling of novelty is still there, waiting to be coaxed out. However, ask most advertisers and they’ll tell you “No, no, no. Post won’t work for young people, you need to target them like this-”, before showing you the huge variety of tech based advertising now available to use at the drop of a hat.

In my opinion, there is a tendency, born of advertisers not being the same age as the “young people” they’re trying to target, to see them as separate entities and to label them with characteristics to try and understand them. As referenced in one of our previous blogs on millennials though, to do this oversimplifies the audience you’re trying to target. Everyone was young once, all with different preferences and personalities, so to now lump young people together in a few simple characteristics is counter-productive.

Having said that, I will admit there are some differences between young ‘uns now and those of previous generations. Various studies have hinted that these individuals have a more cynical outlook than young people of the past, fueled by the recession and the overabundance of advertising they are subject to. There is no denying that the type of technology young people have access to today is also unprecedented, and this fact has certainly contributed to the tech-centric focus most marketing campaigns take when trying to communicate with the young scallywags.

Dig beneath the surface, though, and it becomes less straightforward. Of course the staple of the “millennial” targeting strategy is the mobile phone; they all have a phone these days so you can’t lose with mobile marketing! Except research has shown that, despite mobile being the most effective channel for reaching a prospect, it is on tablets or PC’s that the action/response usually takes place. Similarly, research from Royal Mail’s Market Reach seems to indicate more interest than previously thought in addressed and unaddressed mailings, while in the US Nielsen has found that people aged 18-34 make up 25% of total monthly newspaper audience, suggesting a healthy audience for press ads.

Clearly, it is not just new tech that can hook this new generation. We should see past the tech and the new digital lifestyle of these people and try to engage with them by appealing to their personality, not their age. We need to incorporate a range of communication methods rather than just one to familiarise our client’s message to young people, and make them more comfortable and trusting of the brand rather than immediately launching into why they should give us their money. We need to conduct a thorough analysis through the smart use of data to determine the real characteristics of those we’re trying to talk to. And most importantly, we need to communicate in a way that doesn’t stick to the norm and fall into that category of “just another advert”.

Now send me a letter to open!