Top Five Reasons to Give Up on Millennials

 

Thank you, Deloitte’s, for a ‘just when I thought I’d seen/heard everything’ moment. Please give it up for the ‘MilleXZials’ – an amalgamation of Gen Z (ages 14-20), millennials (21-34) and Gen X (35-51). Apparently, their ‘mobile consumption behaviours’ – and, I’d venture, many other of their consumption behaviours – are pretty much the same.

Being older than all of these amalgamated whippersnappers and, yet, probably possessed of the very same consumption behaviours, I think Messrs Deloitte have missed a trick here. ‘MilleXZials-boom!’ would have been so much better. The point is that ‘milleXZials’ are everyone.

As, on a slightly smaller scale, are Millennials. Here are five reasons why we should ditch the lazy catch-all that is ‘millennial’ and get on with understanding the needs of a micro-segmented audience.

Millennials are not a distinct group

Only in that they were all born between 1980 and 2000. Stating the obvious, the oldest are 38 and the youngest are 18. Socially, economically, politically, ideologically, technologically – they’re different shades on a very broad spectrum. They cannot be influenced, communicated with or sold to with a one-size-fits-all approach.

Millennial is not a synonym for ‘the youth of today’

Because while some of them are, others – very clearly – aren’t. (Recently I read the phrase ‘Millennials, and their older siblings…’ Hell’s teeth, I’m the older sibling of a top-of-the-range Millennial. Talk about broad generalisations.)

Millennials are not ‘the workforce of tomorrow’

Saw a presentation recently entitled ‘Boomers vs Millennials: are you ready for the shift in your workforce’? End-of-generation Millennials are 38 years old. They’ll have already been in the workplace 16 years, supposing they endured higher education. They’re your boss. A quarter of Millennials have been in the workplace for 10 years or more.

Millennials do not all want the same things

Whether that’s world peace, corporate purpose, recyclable coffee containers or a sushi bar in the workplace. To imply that they do is to lose focus and render any communication strategy so broad-brush as to be wholly ineffectual.

Millennials are not disadvantaged compared to the previous generation

They can’t all afford houses because house prices have risen out of all proportion to the price of anything else, and society’s rules vis a vis home ownership have changed. That being said, there are jobs to be had, and jobs in ‘new’ industry sectors (think internet, social media, fintech, bioscience) pay comparatively well. Millennials live as well, if not better, than previous generations. Even if ‘millennial unrest’ was a thing, it isn’t.

Dump Broad Groupings – Embrace Nano-Targeting

Millennials was the first socio-economic group that wasn’t.  (And there will be no more that are.) Regardless of any other influences – and there are myriad others, obviously – the incredibly rapid growth and implementation of new technologies alone has seen to that.

The internet, as we know it, became a thing around about 1995. Thus, Millennials born in 1980 grew up with dial-up and cables. Millennials born in 1995 grew up with smartphones and broadband. Facebook was founded in 2004 – early Millennials would have been all over it. Later Millennial has probably closed his or her account. Early Millennials are sporting FitBits and confuse automated call centres with AI. Sharp-end Millennials are already thinking about having payment chips implanted in their hands.

For the last time – ‘Millennials do this, and Millennials think that’ – it’s lazy, and it’s unimaginative. Millennials don’t exist.

Diageo recently made a song and dance about micro-targeting – given the current rate of technological development, evolution, implementation and utilisation (and its effect on society) expect to have to coin a new term for a new group every month or so.

It’s not micro, it’s nano.

That Image PR-oblem – Again

It was some time ago, dearest blog trotters, that I posted this piece, which dealt with an article in ye olde Evening Staaaaaandard of foggy London Town (do the light clickdango and see for yourselves) in which – as a passing and, it has to be said, quite humorous, aside – the PR profession was lumped together with terrorism and the sex-trade as being – erm – a ‘flexible’ sector of the economy.

Anyway, as you’d expect, I go off on one about it. And yes, I’m self-aware enough to realise that – instead of wailing and roaring at the sky, rending my garments and gnashing my teeth – I should probably try and do something to rectify the situation, given that I’ve been aware of the PR image problem for almost as long as I’ve been on the game, and while I feel justified in saying that I’d like the £200 I give to the CIPR each year to be spent on mitigating against it (not too much to ask, I don’t think), I know that if you want something done properly, you’ve got to do it yourself.

Only. Just as you’re about to gird up your loins and draw your sword of PR truth and justice (are you sniggering at the PR sword, or my loins? It’s hard to tell), thinking that, maybe, just this once, this time it’ll be different, you find that not only is PR’s image problem alive and well, it seems to have taken on new depth (if I can term it thus) and, to cap it all, it’s being fluffed by the the sort of horrible PR luvvy that gave it a bad name in the first place.

What came first – the stereotype or the image problem?

Whatever – have a gander at this.

It’s the scary and salutary story of  PR people Kathryn Kirton and Jamie Kaye, who – long story short – fiddled the budget and defrauded their employer/client out of £19k and £5k respectively. How they thought they were going to get away with this, the Lord only knows. It is completely half-arsed. Had the scam had a whole arse, they – I put it to you – would have got away with a hell of a lot more. So not only stupid and dishonest, but with added stupid. Couldn’t even come up with a good scam.

Now, this would have been enough to – once again – drag the profession through the dog doo. PR people – liars and cheats and – damningly – not very good at it. But there’s more. Here’s what m’lud, Judge John Hillen, has – in his wisdom – to say about PR. Bear in mind that he had undoubtedly formed this opinion before being exposed to the twatmonsters Kirton and Kaye, as he obviously factored it in when reaching his conclusions.

“(Judge John Hillen) said the case reflected the temptations on offer in (the PR) profession.

‘In the world of PR you are surrounded by luxury items. That is reality for people working in that industry but this is not the place to explore the PR industry,’ the judge told them.”

Let’s just take a moment, shall we? I personally will use this time out to survey the luxury items that I am surrounded by and that make up the reality of working in this – what? Sorry? Oh. Yes. It’s nonsense. Absolute crap. There are no luxury items and it is not my reality.

So in this round of what came first, stereotype or image problem, I’d have to go image problem, but just by a short luxury item. I guess we could go further and ask whether the image problem attracts the wrong people, or whether the wrong people create the image problem – but frankly, life is to short.

We need to do something about it. And I guess that means me.

Just Four Little Words….

Dearest blog snorkellers, you must be thinking this is your lucky fortnight. After months without word, I regale you with not one, but two, whole posts. You’ll recall my last was all a tad gloaty, pangs of vindication panging through my very being, as Mark Borkowski, PR Guru of this parish and to the stars, echoed some of my thinking on the dark and loathsome subject of social media and its appropriateness to sales and marketing. (Clue – it isn’t.)

You’d think that would be enough – my gloat chalice brimming to overflowing – but, no, hold, there’s more. This from a PR Week blog which says “Some PR people who chose to focus purely on social media campaigns are now finding it difficult to develop their careers further”. It appears that someone else has noticed the proliferation of social media gurus, the Imperial haberdashers, the guardians of the Sacred Shiny Object and has also noticed that as the smoke drifts and the mirrors stop reflecting, as the next big thing simply becomes another similarly-sized thing, our gurus are left without much to gurd. Some will survive, some will either learn new skills or remember the old ones, but many will disappear without trace. Oh, well.

And then. Oh – and then. Facebook floats. Many, many moons ago, in an overlooked and little-read post I said that the ‘book was not worth whatever frantic valuation was put on it then – some $50bn, I think. I seem to recall issuing the advice (received from someone far wiser than I) that when F’book floats, short it. Short the shit out of it.

 I believe ‘shorting’ refers to the practice of agreeing to sell shares you do not own, at today’s price, in the belief that you will be able to fulfil the contract by buying the shares at a later date, for less than today’s price, thereby making a profit – the difference between today’s price and the lower price you pay in the future. According to this – if you’d sold $100k of Facebook shares short on the day of issue, you’d have made $11k profit within two days. I know that one slump does not a summer make, but still – not good, is it?

So – and I know this isn’t pretty – the four little words of my title? I f#cking told you so. (Ooops. That’s five.)

PR – Image Problem? What Image Problem? (Part 2)

Came across this blog post. Authored by one Steve Riches, food and drink editor of The People. Which is a bit like being culture editor of New Philistine magazine. Actually, it IS culture editor of New Philistine magazine. Mind, you, this train of thought is probably lost on Steve. Seems a bit of a lacklustre twat, that’s the problem.

Anyway, he’s got some misperceptions about PR and – in fairness to the revolting oaf – these misperceptions are not his fault. They are the fault of many of those who work in this vale of tears that we call ‘spin’.  In many ways, it has to be admitted through clenched buttocks, he’s bang on. He got my name wrong though – it’s ‘Jeremy’, not ‘James’. And I’ve never met a Lola-Lu.

Anyway – same old point, dearest blog snorkellers. What are we doing? How did we let it come to this? Why are we – and our organs (CIPR, PRCA) – not frantically trying to put a reputation management programme in place? Why didn’t we start trying to put such a programme in place years – decades – ago?

But back to Steve – I am minded of Winston Churchill’s response to an outraged female, when I see Steve accusing me of vacuity:

“But you’re in PR!”

“And you, sir, are an ugly, boorish lout – but tomorrow, I shall re-train.”

Public Relations – Image Problem? What Image Problem?

(Heaves sigh of despair.)

Right, dearest blog trotters, and especially those of you who labour, as I do, in this vale of tears we affectionately call ‘spin’, here – I am afraid – we go again.

Just before I get to the point – and those of my most faithful snorkellers will know how partial I am to a nice bit of a ramble – the PRCA (that’s the Public Relations Consultants’ Association, for those who aren’t familiar) is muscling in on territory hitherto trodden solely by the CIPR (that’s the Chartered Insititute of Public Relations for those etc etc etc). Which means that two bodies, supposedly with the same interest in promoting and assisting the growth and welfare of the communications profession, are at each other’s throats in a fight over memberships. A fight which, may I say, is undoubtedly consuming some of their time. Time which I pay upwards of £200 a year for.

Time which could be spent doing something more useful.

Like working on changing the general perception of the Public Relations industry, as defined by what our friends in the media have to say about it. To whit, and to be admitted as evidence, m’lud, this little piece from last night’s Evening Standard. (Is it too much to ask of you? Just one small click? Just this once?)

OK, so it’s a fairly jocular piece about immigration and the current hoo-hah about supposedly lax UK border controls. It says that most immigrants making their way to this country are determined and hard-working – which, when compared to the workshy, thieving, poorly-educated and boorish UK natives that I see down my street every day, they quite clearly are – and it says that they are keen to work and that they find jobs in flexible sectors of the economy such as labouring, fruit-picking, public relations, terrorism and the sex-trade.

Whoops! Did you spot that? Public Relations compared to terrorism and the sex-trade?

OK, OK – keep your hair on. I know it’s a joke and – in all honesty – it was the only thing I read yesterday that made me laugh.

But is does highlight, underline, reinforce and generally illuminate the same old problem that our profession has faced at least since I started to work in it. We have an image problem people – which is like saying that the Pope has a balcony and Pippa Middleton, a derriere. We have always had an image problem, and we all know it, and we’ve all – at one time or another – been involved in a debate about it.

Personally – to my mind – it’s what the PRCA and the CIPR are there for. And they’re not being terribly effective. Mind – we none of us are, truth be told.

Made-Up Jobs In Communications – Chief Content Officer

Once upon a time, there was a chap called Nicholas Graham, who (in 1985) started a company called Joe Boxer, which sold (and still sells) underwear. Nicholas Graham syled himself  ‘Chief Underpants Officer’. I have often wondered whether I should give myself a spurious title (rather than simply ‘Managing Director’ (of The Wordmonger Limited)) but, honestly, I’ve not been clever enough, to date, to come up with something that works.

And, let me tell you, Chief Content Officer is something that doesn’t work. I have difficulty with the concept of content anyway – it smacks of a term coined in desperation to describe a disparate and amorphous group of extraordinarily different concepts and products with the idea of somehow ‘bucketizing’ it (thank you, America), thereby rendering it somehow harmless, easy-to-understand and pigeonhole and – above all – non-threatening. The content conceit has developed in parallel with the proposition that we have never faced such corporate communication complexity and an entire industry has grown up around it, propagating fear and awe in equal measure and taking a large cut of the content investment it recommends.

So I’m not really a believer then.

Anyway, here you are, snorkellers, here’s a piece from Forbes, asking the question ‘Do organizations need a Chief Content Officer?’ and, as far as I can see, failing, abysmally, to answer it.

Apart from the fact that I started to get a headache when I read this – which is a sure sign that it’s more complex than it needs to be – it’s also got a diagram, reproduced below.

Which, frankly, gives me the heebeejeebies.  This is trying to put a forced order onto a naturally chaotic process. Trying to define what things are, identify where they come from and map out where they go. This is trying to create a science around what is essentially an art. This is all about complicating something intuitive with badly-drawn rules. I could go on.

Content? It’s the same old stuff that we communicators have been producing since time began, with a few new bits. Audiences? The same old audiences, with some new points of access. And the audiences vary from topic to topic, product to product, concept to concept – there is no hard and fast set of messages or basket of content that will suit every audience, every time (what you tell your investors will be different to what you tell the community in which you operate and different again to what you might tell your employees). This is not to say that there shouldn’t be a single central theme on which you hang the audience-driven elements – but still, trying to diagrammatize it (thank you again, America) is a pointless exercise in navel-gazing – thought and talk, for thought and talk’s sake.

Chief Content Officer? Librarian, right?

Reinventing Online Shopping With ‘Social Commerce’

Thanks to The Globe and Mail (Toronto) for this article published yesterday, entitled ‘Retail Giant’s @Walmartlabs plans to reinvent shopping with ‘social commerce’.  You can read it by doing the light clicktastic on this word here.

Working in retail in 2000, as I did, one of the questions that ‘brick-and-mortar’ retailers were often asked was ‘do you feel threatened by the rise of e-commerce?’ To which the answer was ‘no – people will always want to experience real goods, in real time, in real surroundings, sold by real people.’ At the time they were right, the tech bubble imploded and things (briefly) went back to how they were.

But, d’you see, we got it wrong – both the question and the answer. We got the question wrong because we didn’t know what to ask – social media had not been invented – and we got the answer wrong because we could never have imagined how reliant people would become on the opinions, statuses, needs, wants and ill-informed dogmatism of others.

The question now is – as a ‘brick-and-mortar’, offline retailer, do you feel threatened by social media?’ And the answer really should be ‘yes’. When Walmart are bringing social media to the in-store shopping experience (want a review of the microwave you’re looking at? Post a message – a member of staff or another customer will respond to you. Want to know where the peanut butter is? Post a message – someone will respond) then you can be certain that this – or something like it – is the future.

And as for the boy turd Zuckerberg – yes, of course he’s in on it. To quote the article – ‘this is where Shopycat comes in. The Facebook application uses social media profiles and comments to generate gift ideas’. Back to Walmart’s breathless tech spokesperson, Venky Harinarayan. (No disprespect to Venky, he (or she, I suppose) has already made a sizeable fortune selling Walmart a thing called Junglee, a shopping comparison site. Well done, that capitalist.)

“It is becoming clear to us that one of the shopping behaviors that people have that is inherently social is gifting. We are building a product that we believe makes peoples’ gifting much more efficient, because all of your friends and family, within reason, are on Facebook. We are leveraging that information to help you buy better gifts and make it easier for you. We believe gifting and social networks are fundamentally made for each other, so getting that right over the next year will be important to us.”

D’you know, snorkellers mine, I’m going to leave it there. I’ll let you work out the number of different levels on which this is just so wrong.  I’ll start you off.

‘Efficient gifting.’