Random PR Thoughts

Mixed Messages


This morning’s edition of PR Week – which, ironically, is a daily — brought the news that GE has launched the GE Artistry Series — a line of kitchen appliances designed to appeal to Millennials. How, I wondered, would one design a stove to make it more appealing to the 25-year-old home chef de cuisine? Perhaps it shops, cooks and cleans up by itself?

Millennials, as we know, like to have options, and these appliances come in a variety of colors. There’s black. And there’s white. Take your pick. And by definition, Millennials are way more technology savvy than previous generations, so the Millennial-friendly range sports an analog clock that would look right at home in June Cleaver’s kitchen. (Cue “Leave It to Beaver” theme song.)

Okay, this is too easy, like shooting fish in a barrel. I give GE credit for trying to capture a portion of this huge new home buying demographic, but its marketing assumptions may not be entirely valid.

GE is hardly alone in targeting Millennials. There were 80 million babies born in the US between 1980 and 2000 — and the youngest of them are already on their second iPhone. The appeal of selling 80 million of anything — cars, iPads, and even stoves — is irresistible. (Marketers used to wax on about China — a billion potential customers! Funny how that worked out: About half of everything I own was made in China and sold here.)

I work with Millennials — a lot of them. In the US, we hire 5,000 college graduates every year. And I can tell you that, while many of them may have some broad characteristics in common, Millennials are as multifaceted and individual as members of any other generation. There is no monolithic Millennial archetype, any more than there is one monolithic Baby Boomer archetype. I should think most Millennials would be offended to be profiled as so predictable that they will stampede to the nearest Sears in a frenzy of refrigerator lust.

Of course, all generations are targeted in one way or another. Millennials, here’s a taste of what’s coming your way someday. I was born smack in the middle of the Baby Boom. Based on the commercials that run on the evening news, it is assumed that I am impotent, incontinent, and a little incoherent. Crippled with arthritis, when I fall I can’t get up. A big date is taking a bath with my wife. In separate tubs. On a hilltop. I do find these commercials a little insulting and I am sorry to see the same tactics being applied to my Millennial acquaintances.

According to PR Week, GE is hoping that the retro styling and low prices of the new line will appeal to Millennials, but I think there are just as many people among the Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers who like retro styling and low prices, too. Especially the Boomers building homes for future fixed-income-living retirement. I am also willing to bet that there are a lot of Millennials who like sleek, stainless steel appliances with internet connections.

And a lot who are getting tired of being referred to simply as Millennials.

All this talk of appliances takes me back to the kitchen in my childhood home. When I was growing up, my father did most of the cooking. Given the rather straitened state of the Atkins household finances, my family frequently dined on whatever was cheapest at the store. We ate a lot of shins — from lambs, cows and pigs. Of course these days, such cuts are considered delicacies and the finest restaurants serve slow-cooked lamb shanks and osso buco with pride. Folks, you’re eating shins. (Not long ago, I went to a restaurant where the most expensive entree was beef cheeks. I’m not sure which end of the cow they come from but either way, people now pay a premium for something that used to be ground up into Alpo.)

Anyway, the real magic in the kitchen came from the imposing Mixmaster that occupied an outsized portion of counter space. The Mixmaster was my mother’s domain. And as far as my sister and I were concerned, its sole purpose was to provide us with beaters to lick. Whether it was cake frosting or chocolate pudding (from scratch!), we’d wait impatiently for the mixer to do its job. When Mom extracted the beaters we would begin the complicated and delicate task of working our tongues up, down, and in between the beater blades in pursuit of the last molecule of chocolate goo. It wasn’t pretty, but it sure was fun.


Categories: Random PR Thoughts

4 replies »

  1. Another BabyBoomer trait that millennials can surpass — learning numbers. Prudential had to hire a Harvard social psychologist to ask people how old is the oldest person they know. To answer you get a round blue sticker to place on a board out in some meadow.. One hopes GE is not relying on Prof. Dan Gilbert’s statistic-gathering acumen to guide their millennial strategy.

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