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Millennials Don't 'Do' Direct Response (and Other Lies)

Wow! According to recent population data, Millennials have officially overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in North America.

Speaking as a direct marketer, this is great news.

But based on all the gibberish written about the difficulties of marketing to Millennials, it’s clear that most marketers don’t share my enthusiasm. Everywhere you turn, there are articles describing this cohort as being elusive, invisible, and reluctant anti-consumers.

I’ve read how they crave ‘experiences’ instead of ‘things’; that they leapfrog social media platforms without rhyme, reason or loyalty, and – my personal favorite – that they are immune to conventional advertising mediums.

I even heard one well-respected marketing professional (who shall remain anonymous) proclaim,“Millennials don’t do direct response!”

Nonsense. And here’s 3 reasons why:

1. Millennials are people, too

Although millennials certainly have their own generational eccentricities, those differences don’t override the fact that they also living, breathing human beings. They too have the same aspirations and fears that all people harbor, from Bombay to Burbank.

Just like you and me, they want to make their lives easier (convenience); they want to be accepted and appreciated by others (vanity); they want to make or save money (security/greed); and they want to avoid real or perceived dangers (fear).

Such emotional needs make them a cohort that can be marketed to very effectively — by using the same emotionally-focused direct response techniques that have worked (and continue to work) so well with the Gen Xers, Gen Yers and Baby Boomers who came before them.

2. Digital: The great equalizer

If Millennials don’t ‘do’ direct response, they most certainly respond to it.

In fact, our experience is that marketing to Millennials through direct response is actually easier than marketing to almost any other group.

The one main thing that sets Millennials apart from previous generations — the fact that they are the first generation to grow up in the digital age — actually makes them easier to find, target and track from a direct response POV.

These are consumers who navigate the digital domain with abandon and agility. The internet is, after all, the greatest direct marketing medium imaginable.

As a case in point, Facebook recently introduced a slew of adaptations that make it easier, cheaper and more effective for direct marketers to use their platform.

And please, don’t tell me that millennials have abandoned Facebook, or that they move between social media platforms so often and with such unpredictability that they are impossible to target.

A recent survey by the American Press Institute found that an astounding 88% of millennials surveyed use Facebook to gather news and information. Of course, they also use Pinterest (36%), Twitter (33%), Reddit (23%), and Tumblr (21%), but so what?  Virtually all the social media platform millennials use are becoming easier and easier to leverage as direct marketing vehicles.

3. The more things change, the more they stay the same

Perhaps most shocking to those who claim that Millennials are somehow inherently different from consumers that came before is that they also watch TV and are receptive to that most maligned of all direct marketing mediums: DRTV.

A recent Neilsen report titled, Q4 2015 Total Audience Report, looked at the TV viewing habits of 3 Millennial sub-groups. The survey found that adult Millennials living in someone else’s home watch 2.32 hours of live TV per day. Millennials living on their own but with no children watch 2.06 hours of live TV per day. Those starting a family watch the most live TV, at over 3 hours a day.

While these numbers indicate that Millennials are watching less TV than their parents, the data clearly shows that as they get older, buy homes, start families and enter their prime earning (and spending) years, their TV watching increases dramatically, closing the gap on previous generations.

Clearly, those companies who have abandoned TV under the assumption that Millennials are only online are the ones missing out.

It’s time to end the inane chatter about the difficulty reaching and selling to Millennials and embrace the power of direct response. Tap into digital and re-focus your DRTV marketing tactics to reach this coveted demographic.

Yes, they move around. Yes, they are cynical. And yes, you have to ‘sell’ to them.

So what? The direct marketing tools you need are right at your fingertips.

And by the way, isn’t that our job?

About the author

Ian French, Head of Strategy

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