Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Millennial Trap

Earlier this week I attended a presentation on the impact of so-called "Millennials" on the workplace.   (These are people born in the 1980s and 1990s.)  The speaker urged the listeners to look past what he himself thought were the cohort's narcissism, difficulty with interpersonal communication, impatience with authority, and resistance to "team play" and embrace the cohort's purported high degree of creativity.

I have seen similar thinking on this cohort and the take is always the same: the world must obey Millennial desires or pay the price in failed business.  I'm sorry, but I am not buying it.

I wasn't old enough to remember the buzz about the Baby Boomers when they arrived on the scene in the 1960s, but I was very much in the thick of it when "Generation X" came of age in the 1980s and 1990s.  And I recall quite a lot said that the market needed to accomodate the new arrivals.  In the end, Generation X seems to have disappeared into the blurry backdrop of "older consumers."  This cohort has been a bit more entrepreneurial perhaps, but it has behaved like all the others.  Businesses did not radically transform in the late years of the 20th century in terms of marketing.  And the Millennials won't make any bigger an impact.

The ground rules of the marketplace are ever the same: bring forward a product or service that solves a problem for a target customer, find a way to alert the target customer to this solution, and keep the customer engaged with you.  I'm pretty sure this was the case as far back as we wish to go in history.  The details about market research and advertising may have changed, but not the fundamentals.

Bottom Line:  Millennials are interesting and youth always brings with it some new perspectives and ideas.  That said, they are not reinventing the fundamentals of finding, attracting and retaining customers.  Establishing the value proposition, focusing on the right target, and communicating with the customer will always be core to what we do.  Don't fall into the trap that new consumers mean the rulebook needs to be rewritten!

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