Are You Speaking to the Millennials?

I thought I was sooooo clever. To promote our upcoming PBI Boston Conference, I had the perfect theme…the absolute anthem…the killer headline. It read:

Please come to Boston for the springtime.

Up it went on our office whiteboard. In came our new intern, a Boston University student. “Matt,” I said, pointing to the copy, “what does this mean to you?” He looked from the whiteboard to me. A look of puzzlement washed over his face. “Um, it’s really beautiful here in Boston in the spring??”

My heart sank. I erased the “killer” copy, and with it, a stupid idea.

This lyric from a 1974 song from the now-obscure Dave Loggins meant zippo to this young man (and, I daresay, to anyone under 50). The incident reminded me of an important lesson in business: be relevant. Just because you think you have a great idea to help sell your services or products, make sure the idea speaks to your market.

To be honest, I purposely asked Matt about that lyric before using it in an e-mail blast because, days earlier, I’d used the phrase “Gal Friday” in an e-mail I sent to a colleague. In her reply, she apologized for having to look the phrase up!

“Oh boy,” I thought. “I must remember this golden rule of marketing: MAKE SURE YOUR MESSAGE RESONATES WITH YOUR AUDIENCE.”

Printers today are struggling to be relevant and contemporary, right? I suggest that in addition to 1) embracing social media, 2) giving a tired, old website an extreme makeover, and 3) making an effort to get out more often and connect with and learn from customers, marketers and social media experts, you do one more thing: hire a kid.

I’m only half joking.

If you don’t employ someone who’s under 30, create a job for one—even if it’s a part-time internship. Barring that, ask college-age sons, daughters, neighbors, etc., to have a look at your marketing materials. Do they “get” what your company is about?

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Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched her new business in 2013 as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. Now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content.

You may know Margie as the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference. Although she’s exited the event production business, she’s still publishing her Print Tips newsletter. She looks forward to helping companies create and style all of their content so their potential customers sit up and take notice. For details and to sign up for her Print Tips and new marketing blog, visit www.margiedana.com or e-mail Margie at margie@margiedana.com.
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Comments
  • Marc Zazeela

    Thanks for sharing, Margie.

    I have learned the hard way, too. When you think you know everything is when you really know very little.

    Cheers,
    Marc

  • Gen X

    Really enjoyed this column, like all the others.

    So if I say that I knew what Please come to Boston in the Springtime, Gal Friday, GMAB and Moves Like Jagger all are, then you could probably guess my age, right? I’ll save you the trouble of guessing – it’s 45. Maybe marketing towards Gen Xers is a happy medium?

  • Elaine Neiss

    My first thought was "Wow, what a great title" then I read further and I get it. I’m sure my college age nieces and nephews wouldn’t have a clue about that song. So yeah I’m over 50. Also had to look up GMAB. Thanks for making us think.

  • Tom Plain

    Great perspective Margie. Thanks for sharing. Nothing helps us stay in touch better than knowing and working with young people.
    Another news flash for many old crumudgens is, "No things aren’t the way they used to be, so stop complaining". Many of the younger folks would love to have the opportunities you’ve had.

  • Cheri

    To me, it sounds like a perfect case for 1:1 marketing. We have to remember that one size does NOT fit all – not in clothing OR marketing.

  • Tom

    I guess "Far Out" "Jive" "Psychedelic" went the way of bell bottom pants?
    To be replaced by "My Bad" "Ave" (instead of Avenue)

  • DeadTreeEdition

    You’re a little late with this advice, Margie. Yesterday I published an article with a headline that began with "Greece Is the Word . . ." (http://bit.ly/wZVDnD), forgetting that "Grease" came out 40 years ago. At least it’s heard more often these days than "Please Come to Boston." For the record, i had to look up GMAB, but only because I’m used to seeing it as GMAFB.

  • CanonKelly

    I tell this to Bill all the time, cause he’s really old too! JK!

  • Diane

    Magie:

    Very valid advice, there are times when I get the blank stare and realized that I’m talking about ancient ( to the audience, not to me!) history. For example, the Millennials I work with have always lived in a world of computers, space travel, and multi-car nuclear families. Most of my anecdotes of what I did at their age cause their eyes to glaze over.

    Here’s a link to a quiz from the Pew Research Center to find out "How Millenial Are You?" Find the test at: http://pewresearch.org/millennials/quiz/

    Believe it or not, I scored at 60, which means that I score close to those born in the late 70s. Millennials (Born 1981+ score around a 73.) As a boomer, my score should have been around a 12. So that makes me either young-at-heart (also the name of a Sinatra song from the 50s….look it up!) or entering my second childhood.

    This is a generation that has a different world to live in, and has different thought patterns and coping mechanisms. We need to work with them and get their input…its every bit as valid as ours and helps us to stay current.

  • Crista

    Ms. Dana,

    What a great post! I recently started working at Ardent Displays & Packaging as the "resident millenial," and it makes a big difference to the whole team to make sure we’re checking in with a few generations. Plus, everybody loves being featured on our blog!

    Best,
    Crista
    http://www.ardentdisplays.wordpress.com