Are You Trying too Hard?

US Internet Users

Marketers have been contending with two misses on the opportunity side of things:

(1.) They have been ignoring dads, a move that could cost them top-line growth, and

(2.) they have been chasing millennials who are more open to interactive or opt-in marketing messages than boomers and Gen Xers…

However, according to a Harris Poll released in June 2010, as reported by eMarketer, millennials just think that those messages have little or no influence on them.

Can marketers catch up to them?

"Trying too hard is one of the worst things a brand can do to get millennials' attention," said eMarketer senior analyst Lisa Phillips. "They do not trust brands or companies that make overt product pitches, but they will trust their friends and social contacts to give them the straight dope about product or retail experiences."

Other findings from the poll, namely that social media has a substantial impact on people's perceptions of brands, products and companies: 45% of respondents who use social media said opinions expressed by friends or peers on social network sites have a "great deal or fair amount" of influence. The sample being 2,131 U.S. adults.

That number was 43% and declining in another data set we reviewed recently — The Edelman Trust Barometer. The sample was 5,075 informed publics in two age groups (25-34 and 35-64) in 23 countries. So while it's not apples to apples, it's interesting to see some consistency in direction.

A more interesting Harris finding was that a significant proportion of U.S. adults use social media to complain about or pay compliments to brands: Among adults ages 18-34, 36% say they use it to recommend movies or TV shows they like, 18% use it to give product recommendations.

Catching up to millennials

As I wrote in a post a couple of years back, we're facing generation why issues. While the study of generational habits and demographics for marketing purposes has increased, many studies fail to recognize two main factors that are impacting businesses:

(1.) size matters — populations trends have not been taken into consideration when looking at scaling businesses.

US Births 1905-2002

There are considerably fewer Gen-X than Boomers. There will be many more Gen-Y even than Boomers. What does this mean? The infrastructure and mind-set of many organizations are not ready to deal with this reality.

As Boomers retire, Gen-X people fill their SUVs, while companies have been hunkering down to deal with the dip in services and products needed to satisfy a smaller generation — not just a contracting economic environment.

However, the following one, Gen-Y, is coming up with its own set of requirements for what it wants and needs. Which leads to the second miss or unrecognized factor, along with the one that says this generation is more naturally inclined to share and collaborate than previous ones.

(2) behavior and attitude change with context — technology may have something to do with it.

If the majority of Gen-X (my generation) is undergoing a period of reexamination of the web of relationships that comprise the social whole — with a rejection of those that do not fit the individual identity — every generation is experiencing a return to its core values at the moment.

This is due to the major forces of conservation — the need of which is becoming apparent after more than 10 years spent on conversation — and change. Conservation is not a trend anymore, it has become a necessity.

A deteriorating ecosystems, burst asset bubbles, burdensome debt, infrastructure bottlenecks, and billions of people with unmet needs, or who were left behind during the growth years have brought about change.

Change as business imperative

Which also means a change in marketing strategy and tactics.

Now that mobile platform have reached critical mass and you can have a more intimate relationship with a generation for whom sharing, gaming and doing commerce on the go comes naturally, and who are open to advertising content, are you thinking about making your marketing social?

And also as in solving a problem, and making people's lives easier, in line with more and more reasons why people do what they do.

Online access is becoming ubiquitous, and real world activation is measurable. Are you taking advantage of the converging trend of social, local and mobile? Are you getting access and preference aligning with conservation? Or are you still trying too hard?