Anthea Stratigos – February 1, 2017
Two headlines this week and one comment from an Outsell Leadership Council member, made me wonder why all the hype about products and services for millennials. “I’m so over millennials’’ was the quote that came my way over email. That day, and unrelated, LexisNexis launched a “new academic research solution designed for millennials” and the Washington Post launched Lily — a news, issues and community platform for millennial women. But is all this singling out of a generation prudent? I’m not so sure.
First, generational cohorts are generally defined as having the same attributes. Specific products for generational labels, that by definition are broad, is oxymoronic. LexisNexis states in its release that their offering has three distinct components “requested’ by digital natives:
- A personalized research experience with alerts, saved searches, annotated documents, and suggested sources by discipline
- Sophisticated discovery tools that — with a single search — quickly sift through countless websites and databases and return a clear visual presentation of relevant results
- A collaborative workspace that reduces duplicative efforts on individual research and group projects through the ability to annotate and save searches or documents into shared folders
Shoot, are boomers and Gen Xers chopped liver? It’s hard to think we want clunky interfaces, impersonalized research experiences, unsophisticated discovery tools, and workspaces that keep us in isolation. Ridiculous.
Why not update products and services to keep them relevant for everyone with a need? Does this special offering require a millennial only sales force? Do I get to buy it if I’m 40 and want to use this offering? Am I allowed? Not getting carp-ey, but bristling at the notion that any generation needs their own products and services, especially when generations change. What’s a generational label anyway? Lily speaks of more “visual” solutions. I’ve been a big fan of news organizations working with the RISDs of the world to come up with solutions that resonate to newer generations. I applaud the effort, but what makes the Lily folks think other users don’t want visual interfaces. Most CEOs I know, including me, are HIGHLY visual. Big blocks of text and long paragraph makes our eyes glaze over. We grew up with the adage a picture is worth a thousand words, so why don’t we get the pictures? We ended up with lots of blocky text because the technology didn’t exist for much else, but it does now. Why not make these cool capabilities span each generation’s needs?
Where’s the cool interface for boomers who refuse to retire and are about the same size cohort — 74.9 million boomers compared to 75.4 million? CNN says that millennials are more diverse as a cohort … so, does it make sense to market to a whole generation as if they are homogenous?
Dangerous move long term, because people don’t like being stereotyped, and frankly it’s kind of insulting. I get that the Washington Post is targeting a specific audience and demographic — millennial women. But millennials are going to become middle aged one day. Then what? Students are going to grow up and out of academia? Then what? Do they get to graduate into old world solutions? How silly. Next thing you know, we’ll have boomer products, Gen X products, boomer products for women who are Hispanic, Gen X products that are for gay males.
Maybe in consumer sites, but not in most student or professional ones, it’s best just to keep the products visually beautiful, simple, and elegant. Keep them designed for wow and move off the millennial mandate because their needs will evolve and are frankly pretty similar to generations that went before them. Besides, we don’t want the day when, like this week’s CEO, they’ll say they are so over it. Best to just drop the marketing hype, the faux-generational speak that’s becoming a little trite, and just launch amazing products. Works every time.