As a millennial and someone who owns a growing marketing company, I know many businesses are making it a priority to reach and sell to young people. I get it.
Just about everyone knows that members of the millennial community are the cutting edge of technology innovation and adaption. And it's clear that because millennials dominate connective technology they can trigger mass market responses--both good and bad.
And we are future, brand-loyal, life-long customers. I get that too. And we're independent, creative and open to new influences. And so on and so on. All true.
But I have what I think is a new approach for businesses desperate to reach the millennial demo: stop trying.
Or, at a minimum, stop trying so hard.
That's because what millennials want more than anything is authenticity.
Millennials crave authenticity because we're a generation turned off by and away from traditional institutions.
"Millennials are most influenced by their social network of peers and friends, that's where textbook marketing campaigns usually fall flat." Danial Jameel, millennial CEO of Oohlala Mobile the largest mobile community for colleges and students.
Many young people in the millennial cohort first started paying attention to the economy because it was cratering. We have been told we need a college education but have learned that a college degree, even from a good school, guarantees only life-long debt. Approval ratings for the organizations which are supposed to provide leadership--government and religious groups for example--have never been above 'objectively awful' for our entire lives.
As highly skeptical of intuitional wisdom as we are, we're doubly skeptical of intuitions which want something from us, businesses, for example. They see the future earning potential, brand loyalty of an entire generation and are eager to swoop in and try to capture it.
As a business investor and marketer, I see that.
The challenge for marketers and business leaders is that what millennials want (authenticity, honesty and credibility) are often at odds with the orchestrated outreach of marketing. It falls flat.
"The 48 Laws of Power, dangling the carrot, and bait and switch tricks," will not work on millennials, according to Jason Seyler, Author, Mastering Millennials. . "...Keep it real, if it ain't real, don't keep it," he says.
Here's my advice both as a business leader and a millennial--Don't chase, lead. Don't try to impress, be impressive. Instead of investing marketing resources chasing millennial customers, design a better product.
Remember, the millennial generation is more connected, has access to more information and options than any previous generation. You still need to market your products generally, but if you have a good product on the market, we will find it. If it's really good, helpful, creative or fun and you're authentic, we'll tell others.
That's the kind of marketing you literally can't buy.
And for millennials, at least, it's the kind of marketing you shouldn't even try to buy.