You know conversations are GREAT when they stick with you for a few days. I had several of those conversations at last week’s CUNA Marketing and Business Development Conference.

The two conversations that stand out most both had to do with Millennials. Imagine that, 500 marketers get together and the word “Millennial,” surfaces – shocker, right?

“We’re overthinking this whole Millennial thing. What marketers need to remember is that a loan is a loan. Just get out there and sell them. Stop talking about it.”

OverthinkingYep, just soak that one in, folks. The largest, most technologically advanced bubble of individuals that we can target today. Are we overthinking them?

At its most basic level, I totally agree, “a car loan is a car loan.” Whether buying a station wagon in ’67, a minivan in ’07 or an SUV in ’17. The borrower only wants the car, NOT the loan. And they want it fast while paying as little as possible. That’s it. Simple. Stop overthinking and go sell it!

But I question if marketers are overthinking Millennials
(or any other generation)

When it comes to Millennials, or ANY other generational segment, we need to be careful of buying-in too heavily to stereotypes.  Boomers were “slackers” as hippies, Gen X were “slackers” when they listened to Nirvana and Millennials were “slackers” growing up too (but not now!) It’s an age thing, not a generational thing.

I believe marketing is about Life Stage. Do you need auto loans? Then consider when people are MOST likely to need a new ride? Yes, there is a slight spike at the beginning of summer and in the fall when the new model year comes out. But there’s also:

  • When they graduate college, and get their first “real” job. They can trash the college clunker.
  • When they have a child, and need to transition from sedan to minivan.
  • Immediately after they buy a new home and they can relax about their credit score a bit.

Click here for our new white paper on Life Stage Marketing

But, let’s get back to overthinking Millennials.
No matter your age, I’ll bet, as you grew up, you were markedly different from your parents and your grandparents. As I am markedly different than my Boomer father was at my age today.

Technology, politics and the environment mold who we are, how we define “happiness,” and our expectations for service and delivery. And each of these factors have significantly accelerated since the world went online in the ‘90s.

The internet, having opened an entirely new media channel as well, has significantly increased the number of marketing messages that bombard us all – but to Millennials, they’ve grown up with this hyper-advertising environment to the point that they can tune it out better. And, of what they DO pay attention to, they are savvier about.

“We Millennials hate that word. It’s derogatory. It’s the ‘M-word.’”

The M-Word Insulting? Wow, that statement opened my eyes.

I know the old stereotype is that Millennials are lazy and spoiled. They are, in fact, the generation that caused the “Baby on Board” signs and that started getting “participation trophies.” (Understand, however, this was NOT their fault, that’s all on the Boomers!)  But, like I said earlier, we all evolve as we get older … right hippies?

To me, as a Gen Xer, Millennials are hard to fit into one basket.  But, if I was to choose one, the basket would be defined as progressive and intelligent. They have more of a world-view and care more about those around them. The word “Millennial” is certainly a label, not I would NEVER consider it derogatory.

What’s it all Mean?

~ Yes, we marketers need to remember that a loan is just a loan.
~ Yes, we need to get off our ass and stop talking about Millennials to keep moving the sales needle.

BUT, we also need to be tied into the psyche of our audience. We need to do a better job of: 

  • Differentiating: there’s a lot more competition.
  • Standing out: you need to get noticed in a turbulent sea of ad-crap.
  • Getting to the point: attention spans are scientifically proven as more limited.
  • Speaking to their real needs: it’s more than just a car loan.
  • Talking their talk: we’re moving to a world of 140 characters or less.
  • Understanding how they feel: to some, “Millennial” is a hated word. If you want to sell to them, don’t insult them.

I believe that all generations and target segments are WORTH overthinking. But we need to remember that our ONLY job is to get results. Overthink to the point that you are a better marketer, then get to marketing.

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