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Make it Quick, Make it Special, Make it Cool – How and Why to Talk to Millennials

Writing about millennials is the hip new thing kids are doing these days (and by kids I mean managers, market researchers, and C-suite level executives).  If you live anywhere with access to the Internet, you know that millennials are getting a whole lot of attention and our fair share of scrutiny. As narcissistic as my generation is supposed to be, market researchers sure are obsessed with us.

Confused by the countless articles showing up in my news feed, I asked GSD&M Strategist Lee Sunga why millennials are so darn interesting. His answers made me see myself and my generation in a whole new light.

“It’s an interesting cocktail that this generation is walking into,” Lee said. It’s the first generation that’s been “plugged in” since birth. With poor job prospects, a floundering economy and higher levels of diabetes and obesity, “people are interested in how you guys are gonna figure it out.”

Ok, I see what you did there, but how does that translate to a continued interest in us from an advertising and marketing perspective?

Lee said that “in the past, a formula has worked – when all other controls like money, opportunity, and time are positive and good, behavior is predictable. But now, all those factors have gone crazy out of whack. Trying to predict how these consumers will move is inherently flawed just by the nature of how the insight is gleaned.”

Despite millenials’ ever-widening range of interests and attitudes, Lee said that there are three things to keep in mind when marketing to them: “the shortening of attention spans, the idea of social and cultural capital (anything that suggests something special about me, my brand or provides utility in my daily life) and the cool factor. Just make something cool.”

Take a second and try it – if someone tried to talk to you about anything – a bank, a key ring, a shoe – and followed Lee’s suggestions to make it quick, make it special, make it cool, would you stop and listen? I would.

This distillation of qualities valued by millennials comes with a caveat: “This generation is so self-aware that as soon as they recognize that you’re speaking to or about them, they’ll balk.” (#guilty) “They’re savvy enough to recognize when it’s happening and what you’re implying about them. It’s the toughest place to be and if you’re outed, you’ll never get ‘em back.”

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