In reviewing Micah Solomon’s excellent Forbes article, “2015 Is The Year of the Millennial,” I came across this bit that I’d like to share with you. After explaining that members of the Millennial generation define themselves as being willing to risk some level of danger in pursuit of excitement and adventure, Solomon writes, “Embracing danger as a customer can mean traveling across the city for artisanal cupcakes, knowing that there’s a high risk of disappointment since the bakery famously sells out each day before 10 a.m., or shopping, as a lark, at a popup store with no history and nothing but word of mouth to recommend it.”
It’s interesting how this danger is viewed as a phenomenon experienced by the consumer, but it’s important to note that the business owner is taking some risks here as well. The cupcake baker inevitably disappoints and perhaps alienates the customer who’s been told, “Sorry, sold out!” It would be safer to have cupcakes on hand all day – but then they wouldn’t be as special, and perhaps less would be sold. The popup store owner’s betting on the twin forces of novelty and ephemerality to generate sales quickly; they’ve no assurances, only hope, that customers will love what they’re offering. Entrepreneurs take these risks because they believe they’re well worth it – the element of danger is offset by the promised rewards of profit and being able to run your own business the way you want to.
These are not customers who can necessarily be reached with safe marketing. The brand seeking the adventurous customer needs to be willing to take their own share of risks. From campaign concepts that will be beyond obscure to most, yet highly relevant to the target customer, to unexpected messaging vehicles to a customer service experience that has never seen a script, the brands Millennials love the most do things differently.
Safety is seductive. As business owners, we like sure things – give us x amount of results for y amount of dollars, and everyone’s happy! It’s easy to lose sight of safety’s cost: the people who aren’t reached, the fanatic enthusiasm that isn’t generated, the word of mouth that doesn’t happen – how do you tally up these values? You never know how much gold is in the treasure chest you never open. Playing it safe could be anything but, as Millennial attention is lured away by the brands that are taking risks to reach them.