Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Marketing in the New Millenium

In the April 2010 issue of Deliver Magazine, an article on the future of marketing to different generational groups, discusses the 100 million Americans who are classified as Generation Y – aka the “Millennials” – which have replaced the 78 million baby boomers as the largest consumer group. Generation (Gen) Y, born from 1985 to 2004, are Internet savvy, environmentally conscientious and adverse to traditional advertising. With internet obsessed Gen Y as the largest and fastest growing group of consumers, your first thought might be that the printing industry is in some serious trouble! After taking a deeper look though, I think just the opposite is true. In fact, printing may pose the single greatest opportunity for businesses to capture the attention of Gen Y.

It’s no secret that the Gen Y live in an online world. They exist and live in online communities, tweets, blogs, and social networking sites. They shop and bank online and are even educated in a virtual classroom setting. As businesses market to Y, they recognize the need to appeal to their online senses and connect to them in the virtual world. However, cracking the code and entering into their trusted and guarded online life is something that most businesses fail to effectively do.

Gen Y go about online activities in a comparable way that people go about their lives in the non-internet world. They have routines, or trusted sites they frequently visit on a continual basis. These sites enable them to live their lives with a sense of order and community and they don’t like it when this is disrupted (annoying pop-ups, spam or irrelevant and misleading site content). So just how is a business supposed to get the attention of someone who truly lives on the internet? This certainly isn’t easy as the competition for attention is so great, that offers from even the most trusted sources can be perceived as spam.

According to Pingdom.com, the internet looked like this in 2009:

- 1.4 billion email users
- 247 billion emails sent per day (81% of these spam)
- 234 million websites
- 126 million blogs
- 350 million people on Facebook
- 27.3 million tweets per day

This means that the average user is sent over 175 emails per day and at least 33 of those emails each day are from trusted (non-spam) senders. If you’re thinking that you don’t receive that many emails, it is probably because you aren’t living a completely Internet focused online life such as a Gen Y. In addition, Gen Y have access to over 234 million websites and 126 million of these are blogs. With this many options available, how are you going to get their attention? Do Gen Y even know that you exist or know how to reach you online?

Integrated direct marketing may be the single greatest opportunity to break down the wall that Gen Y have built to stave off advertisers. Integrated marketing incorporates multiple forms of advertising channels into one seamless message that fits nicely together. One of the easiest ways to do this is through the use of direct mail combined with the internet. Just because your ultimate goal might be to drive someone to a website you may think direct mail doesn’t really fit well into your advertising plan. Or maybe you’re a small business you just can’t afford to spend money on anything other than online advertising. These are valid points in deciding how to affordably bring in new customers. However, remember that Gen Y (the biggest demographic opportunity to increase revenue in the coming years) are extremely active Internet users. This means they are exposed to more online forms of advertising than anyone else out there and they have built powerful defenses against them.

To reach Gen Y, more traditional forms of advertising are necessary to capture their attention (such as direct mail, bill boards and television). This form of advertising typically does not focus on Gen Y which means they are more likely to give you their attention if you target them in a traditional way. Even when all of the purchasing decisions Gen Y makes are on the internet, you still have to reach them in a unique and memorable way to get them to participate in your online business presence. Nothing is unique and memorable about one of the 175 emails they receive per day. By gaining their attention with traditional methods that they haven't built up defenses against, you can then promote to them a website or blog that you ultimately wanted them to visit in the first place. This is integrated marketing.

The use of direct mail is the most effective method for achieving an integrated marketing campaign to Gen Y or any generation for that matter. With direct mail, you are able to send cost-effective, one-to-one, personalized communications with a call to action to visit a website. The personalization of the mail then brings more trust to the website. In addition, direct mail is highly visible among Gen Y. Need proof? According to the U.S. Post Office, on average, 584 million pieces of mail are delivered each day to 150 million residences. That is roughly only 4 pieces of mail for every household. If you compare that to the 175 emails an individual might receive, you can paint a clear picture of an opportunity. Furthermore, how many pieces of mail for every household do you think target Gen Y? Do you think a majority of the people born from 1985 to 2004 are currently paying the bills, cutting coupons or sifting through insurance offerings? This is the real hidden and perhaps biggest opportunity out there: almost none of the direct mail currently being sent is targeting Gen Y.

In the coming years, Gen Y are going to increasingly make more and more purchasing decisions that are influenced by their trusted online world. How they get to and arrive at those decisions is up to marketers. Will marketers embrace the opportunities to gain trust through traditional advertising outlets or will they push them away with continual spam offerings? The evidence is right in front of marketers, they just need to act. With the growing number of tight knit online communities that Gen Y are a part of, it only takes the trust of a few for your message to spread like wildfire through their entire network.

For more information on how to profit from the understanding of young consumers, check out the book The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm by Kenneth Gronbach.