Millennials, “The Greatest Generation” and Direct Marketing

By on May 30th, 2013

I am (barely) a Millennial. Born in 1980, I rest on the cusp of what Time magazine recently profiled as the “Me Me Me” generation and described on the cover as “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.”

Guess which magazine isn’t getting a Christmas card from me this year.

Overall, the article has received a great deal of exposure and backlash because of the attention-grabbing, slightly hyperbolic title and the overarching assumptions that Millennials crave less responsibility, still live at home and are obsessed with themselves. I’ve read many opinions on this feature that debate the statistics and accusations the article boasts, but the core of what separates the “Millennials” from prior generations is the advancement of technology during their (our) lifetimes.

AdAge makes a troubling assertion (for direct marketers, at least) that “Among other things, baby-boomer marketers need to accept the fact that Millennials have not inherited their parents’ love for the “touch” of paper.” There is some truth to this statement, but as a Millennial that checks his mailbox every day, there is also a major balancing act that every marketer must accept in marketing to Millennials – the same tricks don’t work anymore, they just work in different ways.

Millennials may not “crave” the touch of the physical printed piece, but still will interact with it given the right pairing with technology. Whether this comes in the form of augmented reality, near-field chips or smartphone-based apps and QR code scanning, ways that allow this connected generation to interact with their mail and magazines using a smartphone or tablet will be key in keeping direct mail relevant to this generation. For example, I LOVE to get coupons in the mail, but I’d like it even more if I could scan and save them to my iPhone. The ideals demonstrated by Google Glass also give insight to how this generation will consume information in the years to come. Whereas the newspaper or Yellow Pages may be less relevant to a younger generation, the information contained within will not be.

The past ten years have spawned the buzzword “multichannel”’ marketing, but Millennials are leaps and bounds ahead of the curve. They were raised on multichannel marketing. Television based off of their video games; magazines that point to websites; College acceptance letters that point to social media sites. This technology has never been new to them, so it has become an expectation in the way they do business and the way marketers HAVE to market to them. So there’s another way Millennials are here to save us, they will push companies to try harder and smarter and the best, data-driven messaging will rise to the top.

Marketers are taxed with using all of the data at their hands, especially from “Big Data” via social interactions and from employing advanced segmentation techniques in marketing to Millennials. Without these methodologies, messaging will be ignored, as it competes with the constant stream of stimuli coming from smartphones, emails, social networks, television, postal mail, video games and soon with augmented reality and wearable computing.

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One Response to “Millennials, “The Greatest Generation” and Direct Marketing”

  1. Carolyn Dennis Says:

    Matt – you sum it up well here: “This technology has never been new to them, so it has become an expectation in the way they do business and the way marketers HAVE to market to them.”

    Very, very poignant. I am not a Millennial – far from it. But my daughter is! What you are talking about there is the generation gap I am living.

    That aside, thank you for this article. I shared it with some prospects who I think are holding back – or just need a little push to jump into integrated, and to remember print can be a part of it.

    I like to say – direct mail doesn’t have an opt out!