To Each Its Own
Every generation deals with its own peculiar challenges while, at the same time, presenting unique challenges to those with whom it interacts. Products are created and services designed to appeal to the idiosyncrasies of each group. Marketing plans are made and advertising campaigns launched to tap into their likes, wants, and needs.
The real challenge, though, is to identify those idiosyncrasies, those likes, wants, and needs and then to speak to them. To successfully recruit new customers, you must know your potential customers. As we move from one generation to the next, there are bound to be some adjustments in the interests and concerns of consumers.
Every once in a while, however, those interests and concerns change so markedly that retailers need to rethink their marketing assumptions. We are about to experience just such an upheaval. That is the opinion of Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and author of, among other titles, Why People Buy Things They Don’t Need: Understanding and Predicting Consumer Behavior.
According to Danziger, the Millennial generation, a group she describes as unique and challenging, will begin to reach their peak earning years in 2020. She identifies four key distinctions that set Millennials apart from previous generations:
First, Millennials reject their parents’ status symbols and find fulfillment through their achievements rather than their purchases. Since time immemorial, automobiles have carried along with them messages about their owners, whether luxury cars, sports cars, pickups, or muscle cars. As we will see a little later, Millennials are less taken with car ownership than those are that have gone before them.
Second, Millennials will trade time for money. We know that consumers of every generational stripe value their time highly — the very reason car wash services are designed to be completed quickly. This affinity for time is made of more serious stuff, though. Millennials, Danziger says, are willing to slow their career progress and their earnings in order to enjoy the time they have now. This sacrifice, she warns, means fewer discretionary dollars — not the message providers of non-essential services like to hear.
Third, Millennials will shift from conspicuous to conscious consumption guided by values. Social, environmental, and ethical values will guide Millennials’ purchase decisions. Here, car washes come out as both winners and losers — winners, because their services are the most environmentally friendly way to clean a car; losers, because these values result in what Danziger terms “rent-rather-than-buy attitudes.” As long as a Zipcar will get them where they want to go, Millennials will see no need to buy a car. Make no mistake; this is not a minor issue. According to the CarSharing Association, its industry is expected to grow to $6 billion by 2020.
Finally, Millennials are savvy to marketing. They perceive, for example, the term “luxury” as just another tool to entice them to buy rather than a word that conveys something about the product or service. I would not be surprised if they viewed the term “green” in the same light. The key is to not only say you’re green, but to also show you’re green. Post a graphic in the lobby showing how your reclaim system works; contrast water usage at the car wash with that of driveway washing; join the ICS’s WaterSavers program.
The Millennials are coming. To make them customers, cater to their interests and concerns.