There are many companies nowadays trying to be cool.
The urgency to be cool is an anxious response to the digital marketing reports that scream: understanding millennial consumers are important because they are growing older and getting paid.
What fascinates me the most is that many marketers are learning the lingo of teens as if they are studying a different species, as if they have never been young before. What ends up happening is cringe-worthy content that makes us feel bad about how they are trying so hard. In reality, young people are not so hard to crack—they want the best bang for their buck, and they are willing to pay a bit more if they can relate to the story you are telling.
I was looking into startups creating products for old and traditional sectors, and a recurring theme is “millennial x”: millennial wealth management, millennial peer lending platform, millennial general health care, millennial retail experience and so on. “Millennial” has become a proxy term for an intuitive user interface, focus on brand marketing, or smoother integrations with other digital platforms.
It’s okay to use “millennial” to refer to all of the above, but those who succeed in achieving those outcomes are not focusing on designing products for the “millennials” as a separate species, they are simply focusing on developing the best products to solve specific human problems.
Whoever solves it better wins the heart of the users, millennials or not.
Therefore, any attempt on riding the wave the “millennial x” products through Dribbble-ish interface, gimmicky brand marketing with Gifs and Emojis, or seemingly useful integration with Slack, won’t work, unless they actually solve a hair-on-fire problem.
I wrote a post on the “love, fear, and itches” framework when evaluating a product; I still think it’s a great gut check for whether the product is working. I’m a huge fan of the startup Hims, because every single product of theirs alleviates a common fear shared by men. The product story is extremely successful, and the appearance of the brand is merely a cherry on top that ties the narrative together.
Once you build a great product, the best brand marketing is simply showing how the products are tangibly helping the users live or work better. We will buy it when the stories are authentic and relatable. The real marketing challenge is getting those stories to us while keeping the cost down.
If someone then asks me: “why do millennials pay $400 for a black hoodie that says “Hoodie” on it?” I would ask them “why would people pay $10k for country clubs?” The irrationality of consumers, however, is a topic of another time.
Sign up for my newsletter for more product musings, future fantasizing, and zen finding via words and design.