Earlier this month, Deutsche Bank economist Torsten Slok reported that there are now more 26-year-olds in the United States than any other age group. Slok’s research highlights some of the positive implications these millennials, or so-called “echo boomers,” will have on the U.S. economy as they get jobs, pay taxes, buy houses and have children. In fact, Slok argues that the economic headwinds presented by the aging baby boomer population could be offset by millennials. This is great news, right? All hail the 26-year-old—the savior of our economic future!
But it seems we rarely hear this sort of positive sentiment when it comes to millennials, especially in the context of financial services. As some of my millennial friends recently pointed out, (and I should insert here that I myself am an “elderly millennial” having been born in 1981) most of what they read about millennials has a negative spin—they have too few investible assets, they are not brand loyal, they have limited attention spans, etc. etc.
This led me to ponder the millennial marketing dichotomy: we know millennials are an important group of consumers, yet many financial services firms ignore them completely or woefully miss the mark on their marketing and communications, perhaps due to the many negative millennial stereotypes that exist.
First, marketing and communications outreach to millennials should be viewed as an investment in the future. Millennials may not meet a minimum investment threshold today, but when they do, they will likely remember how people/firms treated them. And the earlier a firm can raise awareness of its offerings to a budding consumer, the better.
Secondly, why do we overcomplicate millennial marketing and communications? Why would the way in which we communicate with a 26-year-old be so drastically different than the way in which we communicate with any other age groups? Sure, millennials might be reading content on a smart phone and have an affinity for video content, but that’s Basic Communications 101: know your audience and speak to them on their terms.
So much of the buzz around millennial marketing and communications falls into that Basic Communications 101 category. For example, is it surprising that millennials don’t want to feel as if they’re being sold to? No! Who does? I can’t think of any communications strategy where “being salesy” is a good thing.
I’ve also never met a millennial—myself included—who says he or she wants “dumbed down content.” Nor have I heard a millennial say, “I prefer to read content that’s been formatted in a Top 10 list.” Don’t get me wrong, there may very well be an appropriate time and place for a “Top 5” or “Top 10” list. But millennials find it condescending when content that’s been tailored “just for them” is watered down or abridged as if they’re too dumb or attention-deficient to read the real version.
So, in summary, let’s give 26-year-olds (and all millennials) the respect they deserve—not just as future consumers but as people who, right now, deserve intelligent communications of practical merit.