Bedding retailers can benefit from lessons learned by the GOP when it comes to selling to this unique generation
BY JULIE A. PALM
Looking at the numbers, the Millennial generation is a mattress retailer’s dream market: 80 million strong and at the age (18 to 33) when young adults typically move out on their own, buy starter homes, marry and begin families—all prime mattress-buying triggers.
Ah, if it were only that easy. For various reasons—some cultural, others economic—the Millennials are significantly different from previous generations, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center, and that makes marketing to them more challenging than swaying their parents. As a retailer, you can’t just do what you did before.
Author Bill Murphy Jr. finds some cautionary tales for companies wanting to sell to Millennials by looking at another organization trying to reach this generation—the Republican Party. Murphy wrote March 27 on Inc.com about a conversation he had with Tim Young, director of marketing for Liberty Alliance, an Atlanta-based online media company.
One of the takeaways from that interview: The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to reach Millennials is the value of being authentic.
“Recently, the Republican National Committee revealed it was spending ‘six figures’ to run a TV spot targeting Millennials, but its commercial was picked apart in minutes. Why? Mainly because the messenger seemed inauthentic. Its star was a hipster-looking guy in tortoise shell glasses, complaining about the economy while literally pumping gas into a $33,000 Audi,” Murphy writes.
Nothing turns a Millennial off faster than disingenuousness. To succeed with these consumers, you can’t simply present yourself as trustworthy and genuine: You must truly be trustworthy and genuine. But it will take a lot to convince Millennials of your dependability and honesty. According to the Pew survey, only 19% of Millennials believe that “generally speaking, most people can be trusted.” By comparison, 40% of Baby Boomers think people to be trustworthy.
“Realize that you’ll be fact-checked—almost before you finish,” Murphy writes. “Millennials are skeptical and tech-savvy. (They) came of age with smartphones in their hands, ready to verify what they’ve been told,” meaning they’ll quickly get online to compare prices, check product claims and see what their friends think about your store.
For a retail segment that still relies heavily on traditional media for advertising, here’s another key to understanding and marketing to Millennials: They don’t watch TV—at least not like you probably do. (We won’t even talk here about newspapers, but trust us, their young fingers will never be ink-stained.)
“Millennials simply won’t watch commercials unless they’re forced to—perhaps on places like YouTube and Hulu,” Murphy writes. “This is a generation that grew up with DVRs and the ability to fast-forward on a whim.” Young says he’s encouraging GOP operatives to spend their money on online advertising, social media and sometimes radio. Retailers would be smart to follow that advice, too.
Finally, Millennials are in a hurry. They were born into an age of multitasking and are in one of the busiest periods of their lives, going to school and working—often at the same time—plus setting up households.
In the last presidential election, Young says, the GOP learned what happens when you “talk at” Millennials: You lose the demographic.
“Make your point and shut up,” Murphy says. “Millennials were born busy, so you have to drive your message home quickly. If you have an online video campaign, for example, it can’t be more than two minutes.”
‘My generation:’ Independent but connected
- 50% of Millennials consider themselves politically independent (a higher percentage than any other demographic).
- 29% are religiously unaffiliated (higher than any other demographic).
- Only 26% are married (the lowest percentage of any demographic at the same age).
- Only 19% believe that “generally speaking, most people can be trusted” (the lowest percentage of any demographic).
- Millennials have an average of 250 Facebook friends (more than any other age group).
Source: Pew Research Center’s Millennials in Adulthood survey, conducted among a national sample of 1,821 adults Feb. 14-23, 2014, by landline and cellphone.
Julie A. Palm is a freelance writer and editor based in Winston-Salem, N.C.