Published on: October 22, 2013by Michael Sansolo
A few years back my wife sent a really nice care package to our son in college. It was the kind we always loved getting back in the day: some needed clothing and assorted sundries, plus a wonderful batch of homemade cookies.
Then she did something more important. She sent him a text alerting him to the package. Because without that he would never check his mail because checking the mail was something that didn’t happen very often.
Go figure: it’s gotten worse.
The New York Times recently reported on a college professor who slammed into this rapidly changing era of communications when he realized his class was completely unprepared for test. The problem wasn’t that the students hadn’t studied, it’s that they simply didn’t know about the assigned reading.
The professor sent the assignment by e-mail and in that one episode he learned that the evolution of communication has jumped yet again.
As the Times article detailed, college students (and presumably, their younger siblings) are abandoning e-mail in droves, and relying on text and social media. A social media expert at one retailer told me about this trend a few months back, offering his hypothesis that younger generations are moving inexorably to ever-faster communication.
So forget all the criticism of snail mail with its roots in antiquity. Instead, think about how recently you became reliant on e-mail and remember it wasn’t all that long ago. Remember how annoyed you get with spam and all those other e-mails that come to you in endless “cc’s” or just clutter your day with uselessness. Now understand that the younger generation is rejecting it.
In other words, text beats e-mail; Twitter is faster than Facebook; and keep an eye on Snapchat with its less than 10 second lifespan of photos.
One professor did a study that found college students spend an incredibly small percentage of their computer time on e-mail these days. In fact, the only less used computer service is the search engine.
The real challenge from this shift is that marketers need to find ways of evolving faster than ever. After decades of reliance on ROP newspaper ads and circulars we’ve gone careening into an era of change, requiring communication through seemingly every method possible with new media seemingly arriving every day.
So if your hope is to reach the younger audience—and Millennials are an increasingly important segment of shoppers—you have to change with them, which is why these glimpses from college campuses are so important.
The Times article offered repeated examples of the challenges. It detailed the annoyance college students felt when text was used to remind them to read e-mail; and it detailed the discomfort professors felt about “friending” students on Facebook to communicate through the social media channel. As one professor said, “I don’t want to learn things about them I can’t unlearn.”
Businesses might not have that challenge, but need to understand that the level of connection that worked in a circular is a far cry from what succeeds on Twitter. New skills and new approaches are essential.
Remember the words of one student quoted by the Times. “School is a boring thing. E-mail is a boring thing. It goes together,” the student said.
For marketers the message couldn’t be simpler: stay on top of this stuff. Otherwise, you’re boring too.
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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