B&T’s regular marketing to the Ys gurus – How&Y’s Brian and Evan Mitchell – are back with their latest Millennial tale. Here, they argue, tried and true messages for the likes of insurance companies are now way off the mark in attracting 20-somethings…
They love vintage clothing. They search out vintage vinyl. And plaid-wearing hipsters rework the beards and tatts of yesteryear working class men. These bygone styles all have, for Millennials, a reinvigorated trend-soaked cachet.
But they don’t want the services they’re offered to seem recycled from earlier generations.
Gen Y are most engaged when they feel an industry conceives its products and services with their wants most in mind. Telco, tech and digital economy services have been good at giving the strong impression of specific Gen Y relevance (though they have, of course, a walk-up start compared to other service areas).
The flipside is that Gen Y don’t embrace those services they feel are a “hand me down” from other generations. This gives them the dis-empowering sense of being forced to inherit, or even have imposed on them, the way a certain service works, and therefore the way they are made to engage with it.
Yet to date, this has been the consistent approach of the insurance industry – providers and comparison businesses alike.
Whether Life, General or Health, advertising messages here persist with themes derived from earlier generations – oblivious to the reality that Gen Y aspirations and priorities are totally different to those of Gen X and Boomers.
To engage Millennials, a first requirement is to invest in a message that makes it onto their radar – not ones that are irrelevant.
With a few notable exceptions, insurance marketing messages fall into stereotypes.
There’s choose us on price (supposedly playing to the hip pocket – explicit message, “we won’t rip you off”).
There’s choose us on service (the trust and reliability card – implicit message, “we won’t rip you off by denying your claim like our unscrupulous competitors”).
And for those who want to take a funked-up, post-modern approach, there’s the quirk-twerk – playing to Gen Y’s self-styled sense of ironic irreverence (or is that irreverent irony), with messages that are entirely novelty driven, obscuring a lack of authentic substance behind the gauze of “cutesy”.
Like a class of over-eager school kids, advertisers have their hands up calling “pick me, pick me” – without providing an argument that will cut through Gen Y’s preoccupation with Gen Y, and cynicism towards all things NOT Gen Y.
One truism of Millennials that’s overwhelmingly true is they stay younger for longer.
With no previous generation has there been the need or desire to coin terms like “kidult”, “adultlescent” or “rejuvenile”. And even as maturity is forced on them, their models for maturation are no longer parents and authority figures, but their own (real world and digital) peers.
As a consequence, rather than being sensitive to the future – and specifically the future wellbeing of their finances, health, or possessions (the raison d’être of insurance) – they prefer to live in the present.
This is a pretty well-known Millennial characteristic. Why then is its logical implication – that traditional, underlying cautionary messages may not be the way to go – so blithely ignored? Add the fact that onnipotentiality (I can be / do anything) is an intrinsic value for this generation, and it opens up a yawning gap between the assumptions and expectations of marketers and the realities of Gen Y thinking.
The banking industry is another prone to Millennial faux pas in their ad messages.
Reestablishment and invigoration of public trust has been an obsessive theme in recent bank marketing, and no doubt this holds some resonance with the wider community. There are other issues however, more visceral to the Millennial generation than distrust, that are largely responsible for their “generational disconnect” with banks. The first to successfully target these will steal a march on competitors.
So it’s harder than it was in the past, earlier days of recycled messages and warmed up leftovers with a creative modern twist. Generational relevance is now a must. It must be created and then deftly communicated, not simply assumed.
But all this has an upside. Remember, consumer services require an ongoing customer connection. How resilient for this generation would conventional messages be in the face of serious, unconventional attack? How deeply committed is the Gen Y consumer who responds to price, trust, or fake novelty themes, sold as a solution to a need they’ve never been convinced of? And how will they respond when approached in their own backyard, with alternative clever messages that create a need while targeting what’s really important – their values.
It’s always back to values with this generation – and with Gen Z.
And that’s where the upside gets better. Genuine “big ideas”, the holy grail of advertisers, don’t typically fall off the back of a truck, or sit on a shelf waiting to be picked up. They are at a premium. Targeting values, rather than assumed needs, opens up the game to far more creative possibilities. And there is no shortage of Gen Y (and Z) values to target. Our research has identified around twenty aspirational values for this generation, in addition to three intrinsic values. In subsequent articles we’ll look at how these can be harnessed.
A final point on this demographic – Millennials represent your largest market, or the fastest growing, or increasingly the most profitable, or the one promising a competitive advantage, or the one that will drive innovation, or (failing all that) the one your organisation’s future will depend on.