"Marketing to Millennials." It's a hot topic that almost exclusively involves older non-Millennials talking to other, older non-Millennials about what Millennials like and what “they” respond to.

This is not new. Older generations of advertisers have always spoken about younger generations of consumers like they’re bass in a pond.

We can travel back a few years and see the same approach to a young Gen Y and Gen X, even beyond Boomers the same generational trappings persist. The same wisdom comes back in response: “Be Authentic.” This authenticity conversation is already shifting to Gen Z.

Gen X is the generation that birthed Punk Rock and Hip Hop. Marketing co-opted those styles to much criticism and controversy just like the counter cultures that preceded them. Over time, marketing has refined the commercial application of culture to a degree that is basically standard fare today.

The most recent generation of young adults doesn’t draw lines between marketing and culture much at all. It’s interwoven. Older generations might argue that authenticity is dead in marketing terms. But it’s not. It’s simply been redefined by the emerging generation. Today it’s baked in. Culture and marketing are both largely supported by an internet connection so it doesn’t tend to feel as abrupt or artificial when the messages merge.

“Be Authentic” is reborn as earlier generations move into new life phases. Attitudes and behaviors evolve as well. The authenticity mantra is more necessary each time it’s redefined.

We have to find newer ways to interact with greater investment in what our audience feels, cares about and values. Any approach risks becoming a hackneyed tactic. If it’s overused, it’s less effective no matter what the message is or who’s behind it.

Good human communication can only be done well with empathy for the other side of the conversation.

As marketers and consumers, or friends and family, we are a connected community of audience. We have the info and access to reach most people at any time. If we know how to meet our audience, whether it’s our customers or our family, in a way that matters to them then we are able to keep open lines of communication. With open lines, we are free to focus on relevant exchanges and achieve greater authenticity and deeper relationships.

As far as talking to Millennials goes, you don’t have to know what a top knot is if you communicate with empathy and relevance.

Jeff Smack
Digital Communications Director