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The New Marketing Mindset—Ignore it at Your Peril

Want a gut-check on the biggest potential threat to your marketing and how, if you’re not paying close attention, you could easily become another industry statistic? Talk to a millennial.

In my case, the conversation was with my soon-to-be 25-year old son, Drew.  And what he had to say was fascinating.   With his birthday just weeks away, Drew shared how years earlier, he couldn’t wait to turn 25.  That’s because he would finally be old enough to rent a car.  Drew has always loved to travel. But transportation was constantly an issue because car rental companies do not rent to anyone under the age of 25.

While this frustrated him in the past, it will no longer be a problem.  But not for the reason you’re probably thinking.  Drew prefers other, more convenient options today—options that are just a tap away on his iPhone.  Why rent a car when an Uber driver is usually just minutes away, and can get him to his destination without the paperwork, the fuel refill, and drop-off hassle that are associated with car rentals. Even after I explained the convenience and added freedom to explore local geographies on his own, or the possible cost savings, depending upon the distances he planned to travel, his first inclination was to turn to Uber.

On a related topic, Drew seldom listens to radio stations while driving.  Podcasts, books on audio and Spotify (where he can listen to any music he wishes to download for a monthly fee) have become his “go-to” entertainment choices.  And he’s quite content with those options.

His TV viewing has taken a similar twist.  Everything he wishes to access is available for streaming online via Netflix.  Should he wish to watch it on his television, he can project it using Roku or some other device.  If a particular movie is not available on Netflix, he can usually find it available for rent via other online resources, both legally…and illegally (I don’t want to know about the latter).  The point is, his choices are plentiful and far less costly than cable or satellite TV?

Similarly, hotels are never a consideration when planning travel accommodations. Drew accesses and books all overnight stays via Airbnb.com.  He wants to “experience” each city and their local flavor.  Hotels don’t give him that same sense. As far as where he travels, his social networks offer plenty of posts and pictures of places visited, and suggestions on desirable travel destinations.  Contacting a travel agent for recommendations and bookings would be sacrilegious.  Plus, there are multiple online travel review sites to engage his destination imagination.

Drew’s status as a millennial and affinity for technology (a self-taught, highly successful programmer) makes him an ideal Airbnb customer.  And don’t think they don’t know it.  They’ve done an outstanding job of compiling reams and reams of demographic and psychographic data to identify their multiple customer segments and buyer personas.  It’s a testament to their marketing savvy that they have so successfully disrupted the travel industry, and in Drew’s case, not only gained his loyalty, but eliminated their competition from consideration.

Some will try and convince you that millennials don’t warrant your significant attention…that their lower median income and economic buying power as compared to the average population is reason enough to shift your generational focus to older buyers with higher discretionary spending.  They’ll cite declining statistics on the rate of home ownership to lull you into believing that time spent viewing the world through the eyes of millennials will cause you to miss your short-term growth and revenue objectives.  I beg to differ.  They have much to teach us.

Had someone approached me to invest in Uber or Airbnb when they were first starting out, I would have told them that they were completely crazy.  Why would I need such a service when I can call or hail a taxi?  And the thought of staying at a stranger’s home or apartment or renting my home to a stranger was beyond my comprehension.  What if they’re a mass murderer or totally destroy my property?  What if there are white chalk marks on the carpet, outlining the bodies of their previous guests?

But in today’s shared economy, ask a millennial how they would feel about such services and you’ll find much greater receptivity.   That’s because millennials think differently.  They act differently.  They are our glimpse into the future of marketing.  If you’re not paying attention to their buying behaviors, how and where they gather information, their likes, their dislikes, their interactions with purposeful brands, their interests, and their use of technology, not only will you be out-innovated, you’ll likely be the next taxi cab or hospitality industry to be disrupted into extinction.