Published on: May 21, 2013by Michael Sansolo
Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam. And admit that the waters around you have grown.
It’s been almost 50 years since Bob Dylan wrote that line in "The Times They Are A-Changin'." Incredibly, most of the readers of MNB are actually younger than the generation whose growing power he was heralding.
But the message of understanding and accepting a changing world is every bit - maybe more - important today and yet the discussion is always greeted with skepticism. Even here.
I found Kevin’s "FaceTime" commentary last week about his son’s alma mater sending him return address labels to be one of those moments…especially when I read some of the e-mails Kevin received. Honestly, I’m torn. I still think the mail is actually good for certain things, which I guess dates me. I love getting a personal letter or greeting card. There, I said it. But, I have never understood why countless charities think the way to get my attention is an endless flood of address labels adorned with flowers and birds.
But the bigger question is exactly what Kevin posed: why would a university think a recent graduate really wants those labels? Is the alumni affairs office oblivious to what’s going on with the young people at the very university it serves?
Bonnie Fuller, the editor in chief of Hollywoodlife.com, wrote an interesting article on this very topic last week for Advertising Age. In it, she captured the incredible challenge that today’s marketers are facing: how to balance their budgets to reach older consumers and today’s rising young generations.
Fuller’s point is that senior marketing executives are largely Boomers who seem to be trying endlessly to believe that the younger Millennial generation wants the same marketing that’s been working since, well, Bob Dylan was cutting edge. She makes two very strong points:
First the rising generation has to be recognized for the power it represents. She expands the traditional demographic age boundaries only slightly to make the case that there are more than 100 million people in the Millennial group. While their spending power is still weak, now is the time to start building relationships for what’s to come very, very soon.
Her second point is that marketers must accept that this new generation is never going to consume information the way their Boomer parents did. That means newspapers, magazines, television, radio, circulars, etc. are all becoming increasingly less effective. As she says, it’s time for the marketing community to start putting all its attention to understanding today’s electronic and personalized communication—a job, she argues, is too often farmed out to others today.
That’s a hard message for many of us to hear. I not only love newspapers and magazines, I spent much of my career in that field. It pains me to read about their waning clout because I think both forms of communication can be some compelling and important, but the reality is that they are fading. I can’t tell you the last time I bought a copy of Advertising Age and, let’s be honest - MNB has never once been published on paper.
I also have great sympathy for the marketing community as we navigate this new era because today there is no easy path to follow. Today’s marketers, especially in the supermarket community, need traditional media to reach their main shopper base of Boomers and seniors, yet they also need strategies to reach out to the younger population. And since all groups will likely be shopping side by side for decades to come, this balancing act won’t be short lived.
That’s especially important if supermarkets want to retain their relevance and primacy among those same young shoppers.
So against that backdrop, the story of Brian Coupe’s useless address labels takes on even more importance. Because a marketing campaign that brings derision from the intended target is one that will never work.
Remember what Dylan wrote:
You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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