Image: Millennials and Cell Phones

Data Corruption and Why Millennials Don’t Care About Your Company

My niece Taylor is 18, a freshman in college, an athlete, a hopeless romantic and a bleeding heart for all matters equality.

On the flip side, I’m 35, a father, business professional, analytical, short on time and a bleeding heart for coffee.

We’re pretty different. However, your marketing organization likely sees us as the exact same. In your customer data warehouse (CDW), you have us both tagged as “millennials.” (That’s right – in the marketing world, millennials cover two decades: 1981 to 2001.)

Simplifying us down to the “millennial” moniker (or any other tag) is a huge problem. It means you’re advertising to us the same way. It’s causing your message to be ineffective.

When we don’t buy your product, it’s not us: it’s you.

Customer Modeling vs. Customer Knowledge

Taylor is one of 323m people in the United States, one of 290m people active online, and one of 145m people whose online activity is through a mobile device. Another important thing about Taylor: everything that makes her tick is broadcasted to the world every freaking day. Trust me, I’ve had to mute her.

But even with the almost non-stop firehose of personal information she’s aiming at that world, you likely know almost nothing about her. You don’t know her, because that six figure contract you just signed for demographics, psychographics and survey data have “modeled” her out of her true identity.

The problem is, rather than listening to Taylor, you’re using an algorithm that looks at very loose data points, and then appends psychographics to her. Typically, this loose modeling is all geographic-based. It allows data companies to guarantee 100% match rates, but with a dismal 20% confidence level.

For decades those data points were all we had and held true to form – but now geographic-based customer profile modeling is as revolutionary as that email blast you sent to your online visitors who didn’t complete their purchase.

Put simply, marketing is about human to human relationships – and customer modeling just doesn’t get the job done anymore. As a brand, you can’t speak to a data point; you need to speak to a human. You need customer knowledge.

So how do you accomplish that?

Should you scratch your CRM and start from square one?

Absolutely not. But you should be more cognizant of the data you have, and how it drives decisions. How can you listen to not just your modeled data, but also the hand-wavers who are waiting on your brand to sweep them off their feet? Here are a few ways:

1. Your CRM

It starts with your CRM – you need to get control of your Customer Data Warehouse. Expand your mind on how complex a true customer 360 view is.

In the world of social media, our feelings are shared in images and videos.

Build a CDW that can capture that.

Again, simply tagging someone a “millennial” or “baby boomer” isn’t enough – you need to be pulling in more specific information. If your CRM guru is thinking of the future, things like social media profiles and posts should be on their mind.

2. Segmentation

Stop building segments on superficial information.

Your segments should be defined with behavioral markers, or based on when the consumer interacts with you (meaning purchase behavior and not demographic/psychographic flags). Of the segments who interact with your brand in different ways, you can then overlay demographics/psychographics/affinity/social to build a persona – but the key is to start with a behavior-based segment and move on from there.

Doing the above not just leads to better segmentation and targeting – it also solves the lack of connection your brand is making with millennials. Don’t treat them as one group and remove biases about what their persona represents. Let them self-segment based on actions, then tell you more through the data they share across social.

3. Smarter Targeted Ad Spend

Here is the gold.

Be smarter about your propensity models and the people who have a strong social voice. There are plenty of data points measuring a user’s online social reach – and those who have a large reach are the ones you want organically promoting your product, right?

So how to be smarter? Target your ad spend not to them, but to their secondary network. Again, I’ll buy anything my network halfway approves and then is presented in an ad. Why?!?! Who the hell knows, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t spend $100 on coffee beans last month. Guess what, I don’t make impulse buys – but my network predicts the era of light roast beans and then I see ads for quality pour over options…and suddenly there’s a gooseneck electric kettle at my door two days later.

In Conclusion

The old parlor tricks of ad spend and segmentation don’t work anymore. Gone are the days of focus groups where we track consumers eyes to know what they focus on. Every leap forward in technology brings with it fringe science about who people are and why they buy goods and service, so invest in the latest technology that actually works from a data-driven perspective.

Be aware of your data and how it’s generated/modeled. Think about your data vendor’s objectives. If the goal was accuracy, your database wouldn’t match at 100%.

Think about tying data spend into ROMI, because then the CRM, Marketing and Insights teams are brought together to weed out the garbage.

Finally, be genuine with your message and support those who “organically” share your brand image – EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT.

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