“Kids these days.”
Yep, I was ready to say it, shake my head, and then start talking about how we used to do things in the good old days. The truth of the matter is, I am saying: “Kids these days.” But I’m following it up with a “Wow” instead of a headshake.
That’s right. Wow. I’m finding that many of these millennials, who today are running their own businesses, don’t have the “me-first” attitude of previous generations of business owners. They’ve avoided the trap of only looking out for number one.
As many of the readers of this column have noted, I’ve been singing the praises of many millennial business owners in previous editions of “The Bottom Line.” I’ve been incredibly impressed with:
- Their ability to master and implement new technology
- Their long-term focus
- Their desire to learn
There are some misconceptions about the millenials, and I’d like to share a little research that perhaps yields a more realistic portrayal. Hopefully you’ll understand what’s helping these young folks succeed in business and avoid the same trappings that have fooled so many generations before them.
Millenials are not what they seem
In a recent post by a research company “Digsite” called “Marketers are Missing the Mark with Millennials: A Digsite Qualitative Research Report,” a study was conducted on a group of 37 marketing professionals and 40 millennials. The goal of the qualitative study was to determine what assumptions marketers were making about millennials, and if those assumptions, when executed in a marketing campaign, were true.
In broad strokes, the marketers typically missed the mark. For example, when millennials were presented with a series of ads about laundry detergent, the marketers assumed the millennials would choose pro-environment messaging.
Instead, the millennials surveyed opted for pragmatic messages centered about the price and smell of the laundry detergent. Surprisingly, they preferred tried-and-true brands; they didn’t choose any unknown companies simply because they touted environmental benefits.
They also didn’t cave into buzzwords designed to appeal to their supposed altruistic nature. In one example, they chose a Tide ad over a company called “The Honest Company.”
One dramatic difference from baby boomers: Don’t snow us
Yet for all actions that revealed the millennials were so similar to my generation – the baby boomers – there was one distinctive difference in the study: You can’t snow these folks.
Take this verbatim quote from one of the respondents:
“Don’t say something is organic or natural when it isn’t. Don’t make false claims about health in order to sell products...We don’t want to have to sift through misleading claims before we use a product.”
No Baby Boomer wants to be misled, obviously. But we are a generation that grew up with mass media, TV commercials and direct mail. We are used to three channels on TV, and being swallowed up in the seductive and persuasive messages of Madison Avenue.
The millennials? Not so much. They are the generation of social media. They are about authenticity. Forget about the marketing hoo-hah. If you make a claim to these folks, you better be able to back it up.
They read your headlines, sure, but they only buy from you based on your customer reviews.
And this trait isn’t about just buying laundry detergent. It applies to every aspect of their lives, including running a business.
Who can’t handle the truth?
It may not be that millennials have redefined the human condition. If these young people had been born 40 years earlier, I fully assume they would have turned out just like us. While it’s true this generation is different because of social media and technology, they are also people who need to make a living and put food on the table. Jeff Fromm, president of FutureCast and senior partner at Barkley Advertising Agency, sums it up:
“Millennials are not a homogenous cohort. They are not broke, unemployed and living in their parents’ basement among a collection of participant trophies they never earned,” he said.
In fact, he noted:
- Six million millennials have household incomes over $100,000 a year
- 2 million millennials have started families
Yes – and no. They will be like their mom and dad in terms of human nature. But circumstances have changed. The playing field is drastically different now. Authenticity is in. You could BS all you wanted in a mass media ad, but say one thing wrong on social media and these folks will cut you to shreds.
It’s very simple: Baby boomers can’t handle the truth. Millennials can, because they know they have to.
Who is mentoring whom?
I don’t believe the millennials have anything to teach us about iPhones and Instagram and whatever else is coming down the pike. Eventually, everyone figures out new technology. (Look around you. Who doesn’t have a smart phone – old and young alike?)
They do, however, have a lot to teach us about how the marketplace feels about integrity.
They run their businesses with a fervent desire to succeed in a way that benefits people. They know the only way they win is if their customers win. They know they can’t blow smoke up the consumer’s you-know-what. They have to deliver.
In today’s business world, millenials are teaching us old dogs a very important new trick. And this baby boomer is wagging his tail a mile a minute at this very positive development.
Rock LaManna empowers label company owners with 35 years of print industry experience. With the LaManna Alliance, you’ll make smart decisions about growth, selling, or succession plans. Let’s talk: firstname.lastname@example.org.