One Millennial’s challenge to today’s marketers

Peppercomm intern extraordinaire, Madeline Skahill, takes aim at marketers with a direct challenge: figure out how to attract her generation’s attention in your advertising, or suffer the consequences. Read on for her fascinating take…

aaaaaThere are a multitude of descriptions attributed to Millennials that, in most cases, only apply to a handful. However, there is one characteristic in particular that very few millennials have a hard time arguing against—being digitally obsessed.

Recently, I read a Forbes’ article that focused on the best ways to advertise to millennials. It was about making our shopping process as fast and easy as possible. Why? Because if our digital device can do it, our time spent in an actual store should not be taken for granted. The chance of us walking around with a sales assistant and simultaneously looking at the product on our mobile devices is high and the chance of us using our mobile devices to get a product if the service is not being done fast enough is equally as high.

We live in the moment and a fast moment it is. There is no time to waste if our digital devices can get the job done. While Millennials all vary in the common characteristics they share, growing up in the digital world has led us to a common ground of a short attention span.  For instance, Millennials take a majority of the credit for making Google, more than just a corporation.  Becoming a verb in 2006, “to google” meant you wanted to know the answer within seconds and had a multitude of resources at your fingertips. In this digital world, Millennials are not finding the answers; the answers are simply coming to us.

Therefore, there isn’t a better time than right now for corporations’ marketing strategies to become completely digital-centric and change the way consumers think and buy. Advertisements need to be fast, conspicuous, as well as creatively strategize the fastest way to give Millennials the answers they want. And this can be done through the digital devices that never leave our hands.

Whether it is through social media platforms, news sources, or daily apps, ads that are managed by the scroll of our fingertips will obtain more of our attention than a 30-second television ad in which our short attention span will ignore.The television has become more of a soundboard than a visual form of our entertainment, as many of us are guilty of constantly scrolling through our phones while we claim we are watching TV. Unlike the television, we control the information we want to receive on our digital devices, therefore, a creative, memorable ad on a digital device is more than likely to find our attention rather than on a monotonous cycle of commercials. Our short attention span may be a nuisance at times; however, our short attention span should be catered to in order for a company to be marketable by the current wave of consumers, Millennials.

On that note: show us what you got, marketing gurus.

15 thoughts on “One Millennial’s challenge to today’s marketers

  1. Great post, Madeline, and an interesting insight. I tend to agree with you on this. What will be interesting to see is how marketers evolve (or don’t evolve) given this trend. I also think those who do a really good campaign that might not necessarily be geared to that digital/short attention span, are going to be ones who also stand out since it is a bit different and asks people to slow down.

  2. Pingback: One Millennial’s challenge to today’s marketers | PRiscope

  3. I agree with your thoughts, Maddie!
    Especially in the age of Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV and On Demand television, many Millennials watch their favorite TV shows commercial free. So on the rare occasion that a Millennial would watch a TV ad, they want it to be quick, funny, and relatable. Television commercials rarely trigger the urge to buy a product anymore, rather they are judged by their ability to entertain. They’ve become part of the TV entertainment experience and are no longer effective marketing platforms, in my opinion. Millennials turn to their digital devices to learn about new products and connect to new brands, and it will be interesting to see the process by which the platforms shift.

    • You are exactly right. Millennials are using the television similarly to how people used radios or anything of that sort. Millennials use the noise of the television to break the silence and it is a true rarity that we completely immerse ourselves in the TV entertainment experience. While we all do gather to watch our favorite season finales or a live televised event, we find ourselves tweeting these experiences or looking at articles writing about the events, rather than truly focusing on what is in front of us on the screen.

  4. Maddie, I find your thoughts on the effect of a digital age on marketing to be quite accurate. Products are now targeted towards an audience that has grown up with information at the touch of their fingertips. Ample information and a consumer base with a short attention span will force marketers to reevaluate what will catch the attention of their consumers in this day and age where everything seems to be a walking advertisement. Good work Madeline!

    • Reevaluation is exactly what marketers need to focus on. Different protocols for television entertainment have adapted to the digital evolution, therefore, protocols for creative approaches also need to adapt the attention of the consumers. For instance, in the 1950s, the commercial length averaged 60 seconds. However, in this current age, the commercial length is significantly less. Therefore, if marketers have noted our short attention span, it is time they note our need for a more creative approach to television ads.

  5. Question from this Baby Boomer: why do digital ads even matter? I agree that print ads and TV commercials don’t resonate with Millennials, but i would think word-of-mouth, social media commentary from friends and influencers, etc., would hold far more power and interest than bogus digital ads. Please elaborate, Madeline.

    • There may be times when word-of-mouth and social media commentary from various acquaintances do hold more influence than digital ads, however, it would be a far stretch to assume that digital ads have no influence at all. For instance, digital ads are the reason that this social media commentary even exists. Also, digital ads incorporate an important advertisement goal of creating familiarity. Though the various digital ads is not the incentive as to why I have a Facebook, the ads I do see on my Facebook page create a mental image of various brands. As I continue to scroll through my News Feed on a daily basis, the reoccurring appearance of these ads will cause me to become familiar with the images and therefore, familiar with the brands.

  6. I am not a millennial by any stretch of the imagination and yet I own 4 devices and work from a desk top. My spending power is probably higher than most millennials. Statistics show that the fastest consumption of information is by the over 50s, which is also where the fastest growth of digital consumption is. It is interesting to note that the most successful advertising campaign here in the UK this Christmas has been something called the ‘Hare and the bear’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?=XqWigWARbo. It was a whole 2min 18 secs long! The day before it launched on TV it received 5.4million retweets. It was a massive hit right through the generations. Why? Because it told a story which people could relate to accompanied by corny emotional music. Because it connected with human emotion…it worked. Wham bam techniques may resonate but do they get remembered? I doubt it.

  7. You make a good point, Bedrock. But, aside from Geico commercials, I’d be hard pressed to identify ANY TV campaign that I both like and remember.

    • Thanks, Steve. Yes, now that I think about it, that is a tough one. I like some of the commercials from M&Ms. I also really like the ad from the early-90s (which they still air) from Cambell’s Soup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FU1WAa5pDi0. I also always liked the Foldgers commercials with “the best part of waking up” slogan/jingle. I haven’t seen those in a while, so I guess, to me, these marketers were doing something right 10+ years ago. Or perhaps one needs to hit kids when advertising–which might be why I am remembering those specific commercials/campaigns since I was definitely young when those were popular.

  8. Thank you for saying what we’ve all been thinking – marketing strategies need to change in order to capture the attention of the millennial generation. Even 30 seconds is considered a valuable chunk of time nowadays…so why would we waste this precious time watching, for example, an ad before the youtube video we’re trying to view? I don’t know anyone who willingly watches these ads. As soon as it says “Skip Ad,” you better believe I’m skipping, even if the advertisement is selling something I’d probably be interested in. As you hinted in your post Madeline, these ads simply just don’t work anymore. Seamlessly fold an advertisement into my facebook or instagram feed though, and I’ll probably be more open to the product. These ads don’t take up 30 seconds of my time, nor do they make me feel as if I’m forced to watch something. Thanks for addressing these marketing changes!

  9. Thanks for this thought-provoking post, Madeline!

    As a millennial myself and a recent addition the digital advertising world, I cannot agree with your philosophy more. With digital platforms continuing to dominate the ad space more and more, it is vital that brands adapt to this change and structure their ads so that they are not only engaging but that they also compatible on all of our devices (i.e. desktop, mobile, or television). Also, like the cartoon in your post suggestions, today’s customers do use the television as a “soundboard” while they surf around on their devices. Like you were saying, Madeline, advertisers who take advantage of our generation’s fleeting attention-span are able to master these two different channels (television and digital) by having them interact. For example, last year Oreo started a marketing frenzy when they live-tweeted an ad during the famous Super Bowl blackout. Not only was the brand’s marketing team on it’s toes, producing an ad in less than 34 minutes, but the brand stole the show by taking advantage of the Super Bowl’s millions of viewers and using their already significant following on Twitter to reach and interact with this enormous pool of potential costumers. http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/02/oreo-twitter-super-bowl/

    I really enjoyed article, Madeline. Best of luck in your internship!

  10. It’s amazing to see the impact digital ads have on my own consumer habits. Madeline’s article made me realize that during this holiday season, the majority of my spending has been influenced from ads I’ve seen on Twitter, Instagram, and the (sometimes annoying) emails that flood my inbox from retailers each morning. It will definitely be interesting to see if these “marketing gurus” will be able to keep up with these changes!