Monday, May 24, 2010

How to Sell to Millenials

A little less than a year ago, Miracle Whip came out with new ads, targeted at people my age (somewhere around 18-24, I would guess). The ad campaign proclaimed “Don’t be so Mayo,” that Miracle Whip was as rebellious as we were, that it somehow could tap into our generation and provide us with kickass mayo-substitute that wasn’t so bland, so mayo. It got lampooned on the Colbert Report, which gave it a great amount of earned media, and even ran advertisements calling Stephen Colbert out (during his ad-space). While they’ve since gone on to place their new product in a Lady Gaga video, “Telephone” (which I think is a much better way to reach our generation), I think they missed the message.

Our generation doesn’t want to be communicated to like that anymore. Our generation is one that grew up being bombarded with advertising everywhere. We know that we’re often being lied to, and we’re getting a little pissed off about it. We’re jaded and cynical about advertising, and irony is a second-language to us (if there aren’t enough ironic moustaches and three-wolf-moon shirts in your neighborhood, they soon will be). Kotex has a campaign that I think is more effective at reaching us than Miracle Whip was, all because it understands the way our generation acts.

I’m not a Kotex user (and, barring some massive operations, never will be). I have no idea what girls expect out of ads for “feminine hygiene products,” and I don’t know whether its sales are going to increase or decrease. I could care less about what product Kotex is selling, but their UbyKotex campaign is, in my opinion, done very well and tailored to our generation well. The ads (here and here)basically make fun of every tampon commercial. The imagery, the dancing girls, the white pants….they’re all lampooned here. Instead of reinforcing these old clich├ęs, these ads decide to make fun of them, Kotex admits to its own previous BS. This sort of straight-talk is something our disillusioned generation respects, and I suspect this is exactly why Kotex went with this strategy.

Companies that want to sell something to us are going to have to begin talking like us. This doesn’t necessarily mean using our slang (that changes far too fast), but at least using our tone. We’re a generation that grew up on the Simpsons, Conan, and Seinfeld. We’re used to sardonic humor, satire, and meta-comedy. We know how to make fun of ourselves, and we expect that a brand should be able to make fun of itself too. So, the takeaway for brands here is that if you want to sell something to us, don’t dumb the message down, and don’t forget who you’re communicating to. We’ll listen, but only if you get our tone right. Either give us the straight facts or make it funny, but do not assume we're dumb one-way recipients of your message.

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