Know the Ledge...

So you think you understand how to market to Gen Y. Perhaps you've run some focus groups and and subscribed to one of those great trend reports. If so, you may be privy to eye-opening information such as: their favorite brand is Apple, they don't trust advertising, and they really like brands who do something positive for the environment. Profound.

Well, as this New York Times article illustrates, there's a strong possibility that you don't know sh!t. Here's a little sample, just an example…

The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever. The median age at first marriage in the early 1970s, when the baby boomers were young, was 21 for women and 23 for men; by 2009 it had climbed to 26 for women and 28 for men, five years in a little more than a generation.

"Why does this matter?" you ask. Because if you're going to sell to them, you need to understand them as people.

On a basic level, your demographics are skewed. Income levels have different meanings if someone lives at home. And if they're not saving for a wedding, they have opportunities to do different things with their money.

But it goes so much deeper than that. These people live differently than you, which means they think differently than you, or than what you're used to. They have different ideals, priorities, values. And the things that motivate them to spend with you are probably not immediately apparent. You might think that the cool Facebook app is enough to be down with the kids, but lasting success depends on developing an intimate understanding of who your customers really are.

How to do that is a topic for another post. If you're serious about, we can help you. For now, let's just say it may mean getting out from behind your desk and doing a little real work out in the field. Are you ready?

Shut Up and Let Me Market To You

Oftentimes I'll get an email from some company's list for which the sender's address is I'm sure there's an email marketing expert out there who thinks this makes perfect sense. It's not coming from a person, so don't pretend it's coming from a person, and don't let people think they can reply to the email or they'll be disappointed. Great reasoning.

Except that I don't want an email that's not from a person. There's a good chance I don't want an email that is from a person, either, but you telling me that I can't reply if I want to isn't going to make me more receptive to your marketing message. Subtly, or perhaps not so subtly, you're sending me the message that you don't care about what I have to say, you only care about what you have to say.

And if that's the case, why would I want to give you my money?

Pandora x Blue Moon // Random Thoughts

I clicked on a banner ad the other day! Not the first time it's ever happened, but pretty close to it. I, like most of you I'm sure, ignore banners as a general rule. But for some reason, today was different.

The ad in question was promoting the Blue Moon station on Pandora internet radio. What made the difference between this and almost every other banner ad I've ever seen?

- I already like Pandora. Been using the service for years, and I have close to a dozen stations set up.

- I already like Blue Moon. Not just because my friend Robin works there and they've sponsored some of our events, although she is the reason I tried it in the first place. I was pretty skeptical of the idea of a beer made by Coors Brewing Company, but it's really good.

Truth be told, the ad takes you to Pandora and adds the Blue Moon station to your station list. The programming is holiday music — the first song was Frank Sinatra singing Auld Lang Syne — not really my thing, so I probably won't be back. But that's another story.
The lesson here is that in today's environment, banner ads and other "traditional" advertising only perform in an environment that is already friendly. In fact, in our research for Honda this summer, urban teens told us exactly that about product placement: It resonates when it's for a brand they already like, but would not make them like a brand they weren't into.
It takes us back to the 4-Cs: Really knowing your Customers creates power. It creates the ability to do Contribute to their Communities and develop Content that will make them click your banners.

The 4 C's of Being Grassroots // Random Thoughts

A client told me recently that because the brand has hit tough times, they’re “going back to basics,” which is code for spending a greater portion of a diminishing budget on traditional advertising. As if to say that "Being Grassroots" is a luxury for when times are good, but when times are tough, we retreat to what we know, even if what we know isn’t working. This is utter nonsense. You might as well have a sweepstakes in which your customers guess how far you can bury your head in the sand.

The answer, as I’m sure you know, is to become more grassroots. By this I mean to constantly hone your ability to put yourself in consumers’ shoes. The 4-Cs of Being Grassroots:

Customer. First, get to know everything about your customers. If you immediately think age and ethnicity, you’ve got a long way to go. Really find out who they are and what makes them tick. Then, look at your brand from the their perspective. It doesn’t really matter how great you think your product is or what you think the benefits are, it only matters what they think. This is old news but one of the oft-missed fundamentals. The next three leverage this perspective in ways that carry all the power.

Community. It’s not enough to understand consumers as individuals. We’re social beings, so you need to learn the patterns of influence that exist within a community. Who influences your customer, who does your customer influence, and who influences the influencers? If you don’t know this, you don’t know how to make your brand relevant.

Content. Let's be clear: most people don't care about your advertising. They don't care about your brand promise or your unique selling proposition. They've got their own lives to worry about. You need to find out about their lifestyle interests, and create engaging content that speaks to those interests. This is not about sneaking in product placement, it's about investing in culture, and it pays significant dividends.

Contribution. This is the one with all the power. Approach consumers like you want to give them something, not like you want to sell them something. Contribute to their culture, their communities. That’s how you earn their attention — the right to market to them. Invest, invest, invest, and then shall ye reap.