Ever wonder how Vice Media became such a digital marketing powerhouse? Vice creator, Shane Smith, had this to confess: “Young people have been marketed to since they were babies, they develop this incredibly sophisticated bull**** detector, and the only way to circumvent the bull**** detector is to not bull****.”
Cynical Target Markets
He’s attributing their success to a unique editorial approach that resonates well with their target audience: Gen Xers and millennials. Hardened by economic hardships and distrustful of institutional organizations, both generations are cynical and hungry for authenticity. Such insight into disenfranchised generations’ values has helped cement Vice’s status and powerhouse ranking among legacy media companies.
But I’d also venture to say that advancements in technology catalyzed real change in how news organizations and brands have addressed their audience over the years. Vice blossomed at a time when video production costs have gone down and quality has gone up; and when viewer engagement is easier to quantify too.
This was hardly the case three decades ago when direct marketing was first introduced in the 1970’s. It was mainly used to send mail-in campaigns, promotions and coupons to the Baby Boomers. But marketers eventually realized it generated poor leads. This generation valued trust and loyalty, which gave rise to telemarketing as a replacement to direct mail where two or more calls were involved to determine a consumer’s needs and motivate them to purchase. As demographics became more diverse, so were the challenges of marketers to reach their audiences. And as they saw success rates flourish, they also became greedy for more. So robocalls and auto-dialers were introduced to expedite processes and to scale efforts quickly.
Marketers Turn Consumers Away
Isn’t that the kicker? When technology advances the way we communicate, marketers manage to turn consumers away. Consumers always find a way to switch us off. Even during the golden age of email communication with Generation X, spambots and scams eventually ruined a perfectly good way to make a genuine connection with this generation.
Now, millennials are hyper-linked by social media where they “construct personalized networks of friends, colleagues and affinity groups.” Their immediate access to information has enabled bilious cynicism. Their distrust in political and religious institutions have contributed to low levels of social trust. Yet they embrace all things digital and demand transparency. As brands increased their publishing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks, millennials saw through it, leading them to be more likely to trust the opinions of complete strangers, or influencers. When technology automated relationship-building with influencers, they felt commoditized, thus turning down brand offers for potential social media partnerships.
As we’ve seen in the past, one marketing activity has been replaced by another, largely driven by consumers and their ability to switch their attention off if they feel a brand “doesn’t get them”.
Baby Boomers moved from direct mail to telemarketing.
Generation X moved from telemarketing to email marketing.
Now millennials have moved from social media to influencer marketing.
Technology, Digital Marketing and Gen Z
The next two generations of consumers, namely Generation Z, who will grow up with full access to internet and technology, will be interesting to watch from a digital marketing perspective. Past precedence has shown that the marketing methods that work today won’t resonate with those in the prime buying generation — millennials.
Will influencer marketing stand the test of time with this generation? Will they soon opt-out of Snapchat Stories? Or perhaps they will demand complete transparency in their influencer marketing, leading to a decrease in paid influencer marketing and a rise in open and honest influencer marketing. Maybe it will become known as advocate marketing or loyalty marketing. Only time will tell.
Will your brand be able to quickly adapt its marketing to keep up with these generational shifts?
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