The Inescapability of the Word ‘Millennial’

millennialsThis blog was written by our intern, Kamilla Rahman.

If you’ve ever surfed the web for more than 10 minutes, you’ve definitely come across the word millennial at least five times. People are constantly talking about millennials, what they’re doing, what they want, what they will be doing, how they react and how to resonate with them. Even the KG team has been known to write about millennials on behalf of our clients from time to time – here is a recent example.

According to Investopedia, “a millennial is the given name to the generation born between 1982 and 2004…this generation is often associated with technology and social media.” In the last couple of years, there has been a more specific consensus. A millennial is basically someone in their 20’s or 30’s.

The world is infatuated with millennials, and as a millennial, I honestly don’t get it. I was flipping through a few articles the other day and almost every article referenced the millennial generation. I do understand millennials are important, especially when regarding technology and retail. We’re a different generation, we’re nontraditional, we’re viewed as more independent, we have different expectations and we are more technologically advanced than our parents and grandparents with a tremendous amount of buying power.

But why the obsession?

Some of the headlines read:

Though all of these articles are extremely insightful, as a millennial, I don’t understand why all of these brands and companies are constantly trying to appeal to us. The word is everywhere. It’s basically inescapable and everyone seems to think that appealing to a millennial is the magic key to all things holy and great.

My brother and I are both millennials. He was born in 1985 and I was born in 1995. Throughout most of our lives, our purchasing habits, interests and even technological awareness have been different. Though they are closer today than they have ever been, they’re still completely different.

He’s 31, he goes to work, has meetings all day, buys suits and dress pants, goes to CrossFit, has nice dinners with his beloved girlfriend, just bought a house, gets a beer with his buds, checks his iPad for emails, pretty much knows what he’s doing with his life and occasionally has a late night out. I, on the other hand, am 21. I’m about to start my senior year of college, I intern, I’m an avid online shopper, I go out with my friends almost every weekend, I study, am always on the move and suffer withdrawal symptoms when I don’t have my phone for more than 45 minutes.

The only things we really have in common are that we stay busy and know technology. I may be wrong here, but that just doesn’t seem like the proper way to target consumers, especially in retail. The word millennial is too broad. It encompasses people that are in completely different stages of their lives. To me, focusing efforts around millennials is just an over-followed trend.

Don’t get me wrong; appealing to millennials has definitely shifted the way marketers appeal to consumers. It has become intuitive, personal and brands have figured out how to market in a way that is additive to peoples’ lives. But if you think about it, don’t generations older and younger want that as well?

In retail and technology, a new goal is personalization; so my question is why do these industries continue to obsess over a market that appears to be so diverse and vague?

Can Teslas and Pizza Get People Shopping Again?

A recent Washington Post headline read, “Unemployment is down. Gas prices are low. Why isn’t America shopping?”

There are a number of possible answers. Both in the article and at the inaugural ShopTalk conference, there were numerous discussions about the U.S. being “over-retailed” – too many stores and e-commerce sites for too few shoppers. Many like to point to widespread uncertainty about the global economy and the twists and turns of the presidential election. Moreover, shoppers are spending their money differently: they are addicted to promotions and often opt to spend their hard-earned dollars on experiences like vacations or big projects like home improvement. But these don’t explain the whole truth.

In reality, the shopping experience can all too often be downright awful. On a recent weekend I spent five minutes at a big-box office products store waiting for someone, anyone to show up at the empty cash registers at the front of the store. I didn’t really feel like chasing anyone down, and I’d only gotten half of what I came for, as the pens I wanted were out-of-stock. After a few minutes of waiting I started comparing prices on Amazon. No surprises here: I found everything I wanted at a lower price, so I left my purchases at the register, walked out the door, and placed the order before I left the parking lot. It’ll likely be the last time I visit that retailer for basic office supplies.

My wife didn’t fare much better at a women’s apparel store that weekend. She stood in line at the register for what seemed an interminable amount of time waiting to pick up an order, which turned out to be a different size from what she ordered. When she headed back to the counter to order it in the right size, the sales associate promptly announced she was headed to lunch, leaving my wife stranded at the cash wrap. She placed her order online later that afternoon; however, her 40% off coupon code didn’t apply online, even though the coupon said nothing about online exclusions. It took a call to the e-commerce help desk to straighten it out – although the help desk operator couldn’t answer my wife’s questions right away, as the retailer’s systems hadn’t updated yet.

These problems fall into two broad categories: too few sales associates for many retailers (and a failure to properly train the ones they have), as well as outdated systems and disconnected technology. Is it any wonder that Amazon accounts for 1 in 3 shopping transactions, according to Internet Retailer?

Fortunately, the best retailers are making the right moves to re-energize retail and attract shoppers. Nordstrom, which consistently has some of the best sales associates in retail, is opening a small Tesla gallery at a high-end mall location. Target is spending $1 billion this year remodeling its stores and has launched 25 “stores of the future” in Los Angeles. Urban Outfitters, which recently set a Q1 sales record, firmly believes that “bricks and clicks are synergistic.” Urban bought the popular Vetri Family pizza chain last year and recently opened two flagship Anthropologie stores with “a petite shop, expanded jewelry and accessories, an intimates boutique, an 800 square foot beauty shop, a full-service shoe salon as well as over 6,000 square feet of home products,” according to RIS News.

These retailers, and many others, are clearly doing everything they can to get America shopping again. Retailers shouldn’t forget the fundamentals, though: Train your associates. And get those legacy systems to talk to one another, in real-time. Focus on these things – and continue to make stores fun, creative and innovative – and consumers will start shopping again. After all, you can’t buy a Tesla, get a makeover or get a slice of pizza while shopping at Amazon – at least not yet.

It’s an Amazon world, we’re just living in it

If you know anything about the retail industry you’ve probably heard a thing or two (or a million) about Amazon. Amazon, an ecommerce giant, provides thousands, if not millions of items to consumers from all over the world delivered to your door step within days. Retailers, physical and digital, find themselves competing with Amazon constantly. It’s hard to beat impeccably cheap prices, two-day free shipping and same-day delivery in some cities for Prime members. But now there’s something else to compete with. Amazon announced that it would be launching Prime Day, an event to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Amazon boasts that it will have deals that are much bigger than those on black Friday. Of course the purpose of this is to drive sales, but how can other retailers beat such a heavy promise?

Walmart, for one, is taking a big stab at competing with Amazon. Walmart’s CEO Fernando Medeira posted a blog titled “Why Every Day is Low Price Day at Walmart,” in which he announced they would reduce the minimum free shipping for online purchases from $50 to $35 and reduce prices on thousands of online items. “We’ve heard some retailers are charging $100 to get access to a sale,” Medeira stated in the post. “But the idea of asking consumers to pay extra in order to save money just doesn’t add up for us.” A point well made by Walmart, which was clearly taking a punch at Amazon’s Prime Day event. A few days later Walmart increased the competition a bit more with their new promotion called “Dare to Compare,” in which they guarantee that they will offer lower prices than Amazon and invite consumers to compare the prices themselves.

Though two of the biggest retailers in the world are going head to head in competing for market share based on low prices, they are not the only ones. Food Lion has also jumped on the price lowering bandwagon. They announced they would be lowering prices on thousands of items that are most important to consumers based on extensive research and frequently purchased items. To ensure that consumers are aware of the price cuts, Food Lion is using three signed deal offers including, “WOW: Lower prices on thousands of items that matter most to customers, offered for longer periods of time,” which also alludes to Amazon’s brief one-day event.

As the highly anticipated Prime Day is in full swing, many consumers are anything but impressed. Many consumers went to social media to criticize the event for its unexciting items and for the fact that there are waitlists for those items. Though Prime Day isn’t what people expected, the event still sparked a lot of competition from other retailers and interest from the media and consumers alike. The fact that other retailers created promotions in response to Prime Day deals shows just how significant Amazon’s influence is in the retail industry.


I Need a Doctor (to Bring Me Back to Life)

I Need a Doctor I Need A Doctor (single), Dr. Dre & Eminem © 2011
I’m a very musical person. If I’m not talking, I’m singing and if I’m doing neither of those, then I guarantee I have a song stuck in my head to which I’m bouncing noiselessly along. Lately, I’ve been on a hip-hop (rap) kick. Nothing gets me more pumped at the gym, into the work zone and easily through rush hour than emcees spitting their rhymes through the mic and into my headphones. And no one does it better than Eminem (warning: major celeb crush). Because this is what’s in my head at the moment, I’ve taken the titles of some of my favorite Eminem songs as inspiration for a blog post to help companies experiencing common PR challenges.

Do you feel like you “Need a Doctor” for your company’s PR program? I’m no doctor—and neither is Marshall Mathers, Eminem or his alter ego, Slim Shady—but we can use his beats to help us structure common PR challenges companies face every day.

[Warning: If you’re offended by strong or suggestive language, avoid listening to the songs hyperlinked below.]

The Real Slim ShadyThe Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem © 2000
Is another company imitating your business’ main messaging and value points? They say that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,’ but I just find it annoying. Let’s combat this unoriginal behavior and have the ‘real slim shady’ stand up, please. If no one can do it better than you, they shouldn’t be able to say it better than you, so take back what’s yours with these steps:

  • Find a better way to say it: Refresh your corporate messaging to stay ahead of the copycats. Don’t let follower companies ride off of your success—refresh your messaging and find new ways to talk about the great things you do.
  • Find new SEO terms: Search terms are always changing in frequency. If your competitors have caught on to the key words and it has become a little crowded, analyze your industry’s SEO landscape to see what other terms your audience is typing into Google’s box.
  • Call them out: Go on, point the finger. In a classy way. It’s okay to say that you’re the only company that provides XYZ to ABC in exactly this 123 way. Don’t be afraid to describe why you’re different (…or better) than your competition. Just make sure you have the proof to back up your assertions.

No LoveRecovery, Eminem © 2010
Are your Facebook and Twitter pages lacking in the love department? If you are aching for more fans, “likes,” and followers, follow these steps:

  • What are you saying? Analyze the content you’re posting. If you’re only tooting your own horn, lay off for a while. Post and tweet interesting industry articles or general questions to engage your audiences. Ex: What are you doing this weekend? Free #Starbucks drink for the person with the most interesting plans!
  • Engage to get visibility: For Twitter folks, “retweeting” and responding directly to people can go a long way in personalizing your online interaction with customers or prospects. Also, make sure to use hashtags whenever appropriate so that potential new followers tracking those interests see your updates.
  • The game is on: For Facebook folks, we’ve found that promoting competitions on Facebook can significantly boost your “likes.” One of our clients hosted a YouTube video challenge and to qualify, participants were required to “like” the company on Facebook, first. They boosted their Facebook fan base by over 3,000 fans during this competition. Continue reading

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho – It’s Off to Work We Go!

Let’s face it, there are some days where we just don’t want to get up and go to work – you are lying if you say otherwise. Other than those few days a year, I will say that I genuinely enjoy coming to work at our funky little offices. Why? I love the people that I work with! We are like a family here. We look out for each other, and support each other at and outside the office.  In fact, compared with the company culture at other small businesses (and corporate organizations) we almost live in a protective bubble.

At Ketner Group, we also have a stellar track-record of employee retention and we are very loyal to the business.  This is not the industry norm.  According to a recent WebProNews article, gone are the days when we started a job after college and worked our way up the ladder until we retire at age 65. According to the article, “Not only do we have more jobs in our lifetime than any other generation before us, but we also plan to not stay in our positions.” A recent MetLife report found that only 44% of employees feel a strong sense of loyalty towards their employers and that over one-third of employees just flat-out want a different job.

If only all companies had the same protective bubble as we do at Ketner Group. Still, after reading these reports, I became intrigued.  How can people “job hop” like that?  I always thought having job after job listed on a resume was a negative thing – but is it really becoming the norm and acceptable? Check out these stats I found from

  • Today’s average college graduate will hold 9.8 jobs, working until age 65. In California, that same graduate will hold 14.3 jobs.
  • The median number of years that an average U.S. worker has been at their job – 4.4.
  • Average jobs in a lifetime for men – 11.4.
  • Average jobs in a lifetime for women – 10.7.
  • 61% of employed workers are open to or are looking for a new job. Continue reading

When I Grow Up I Want To Be…

I’m not going to lie.  Sometimes my job is hard. In fact, it can be downright frustrating and still causes me to shed a few tears now and then. Twelve years working in public relations has taught me to have thick skin and to keep pushing forward when things get tough, but I still have days when I can’t wait to get home and pour myself a tall glass (or two) of my favorite white wine. And I’m not the only one who feels this way, either. According to The Huffington Post, public relations is ranked one of the top ten most stressful jobs in America, right alongside our friends in advertising, commercial pilots, architects and EMTs. PR executives must consistently prove our worth to clients, for fear if we don’t, we’ll get the boot. (We must also be perfect spokespersons and pitchers for the media, for fear of being “that PR person” – but that is another topic all together!)

We must educate clients who don’t understand that it is not always about how many clips you get, but also includes the importance of developing and nurturing relationships with media, analysts and industry though leaders. We must be all things to our clients: spokespersons, advisors, cheerleaders, editors, trainers, devil’s advocates, educators, writers, lead generators, pitchers, networkers, brand ambassadors, sometimes psychologists, travel companions, and dare I say, friends.

So, imagine my surprise when I read a CNBC report about the Top 10 Hated Jobs in America (as surveyed by CareerBliss). Public relations was nowhere to be found on the list, instead, it was marketing managers and VPs of sales and marketing. According to the survey, directors of sales and marketing (who typically manages the company budget, public relations and employee training) reported the second-highest level of job dissatisfaction due to “lack of direction from upper management and an absence of room for growth.”

I’ve been working in the PR agency world for my entire career, so I am not naïve to think that marketing managers and directors have it easy. I know they don’t.

Continue reading