Towed By A Millennial: Insight On Why Print Still Has Value

By Toby Reed

I was on my way to the airport, traveling Route 280 in New Jersey toward Newark Liberty International to make an evening flight to Kansas City. For whatever reason, my car had other plans. With a flicker of my dashboard lights, and a sudden hesitating lunge forward, I realized I needed to pull over. My alternator had given up, and so had I on my hopes of making my flight.

Resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be going to Kansas City this evening I called AAA for a tow. I rearranged my flight and rental car reservations to the following morning from my phone, and awaited the arrival of the tow truck. While I was annoyed at my circumstance, I was grateful at how easy it was with today’s technology to rearrange my travel itinerary and call for help. I couldn’t imagine trolling door to door asking strangers if I could use their phone.

AAA to the Rescue

Roughly 20 minutes later the tow truck arrived. Just as the AAA Service alert text and online service tracker indicated it would. Jacob, a mid-twenties Millennial exited the truck, said ‘hello’, and began loading my car onto his flatbed. As we entered the cab of his truck for our hour long trek to my neighborhood’s auto repair shop, I began to tell Jacob about my ordeal.

I also spoke with him about how I rearranged my itinerary online, and about the AAA App that texted me his estimated arrival time that I thought was pretty cool. That catapulted our conversation into technology. Jacob offered that he loved technology. He was a frequent Uber user, would never trade in his EZ Pass, and is addicted to the Waze App for finding the most efficient route when traveling somewhere. I wasn't at all surprised by this millennial’s affinity for these new age digital tools of convenience, but as our conversation continued Jacob would share something unexpected.

Big Brother Technology?

As we exited Route 280 and merged onto Interstate 80 Jacob went on and on about how great AirbnbInstagram, and self-inflatable bicycle helmets are. But his praise shifted to disdain as he spoke about the darker ‘big brother’ side of technology that he can’t stand. The highway cameras, the online pop-up ‘noise’ and spam. He spoke about the personal cost of all the technology. How he felt infringed upon when pop-up ads would interrupt his online experience, or how ‘spam’ constantly hit his mobile email during work hours when he needs to be checking his email for service calls and work related communication.

“It is just too much” Jacob advised “It is so annoying that I go out of my way NOT to buy whatever the product is they are trying to spam me with.”

About three quarters of the way through our journey, and intrigued by the turn in the conversation, I was curious what Jacob thought of print. Was print annoying? Was direct mail in his USPS mailbox invasive? Did he have the same disdain for all forms of solicitation period?

“No.” Said Jacob, “I like mail”.

“Give me a break!” I retorted. “You, LIKE mail?”

“Yes” Jacob countered with a laugh. “Seriously, the thing about mail is that I know what to expect when I go to the mailbox. I know there will be bills, advertisements, a catalogue or whatever, but at least I am checking my mailbox when I am ready to view what is in it. The other stuff, the spam and the pop-ups and all that, it is just nonstop following me everywhere. It’s so annoying. Really I just cannot stand that stuff."

Millennial Affinity Towards Direct Mail

Being a print guy, I was excited to hear of Jacob’s view on printed communications. Especially those directed to the mailbox. Much has been studied and written about the preferences of the 75 million Millennials in our country as they have quickly become the largest and one of the most important economic generations in our current economy. Being digital natives, many assumed the Millennials would gravitate solely toward digital marketing communications and leave behind the print and mail forms of communication. But studies, as my conversation with Jacob confirms, suggest Millennials like a combination of the two. They suggest that print, has an important place in the marketing mix when it comes to reaching Millennials.

As we pulled into my local garage I asked Jacob if he ever actually took action on any of the printed offers he got in the mail.

“Sometimes if it’s something that interests me.” He offered. “If it saves me money and I can use a coupon online or something right then and there, even better.”

I thanked Jacob as I took my bags out of his cab and exited the truck. He logged into his iPad to let AAA know his call was complete and to see where his next pick up was. As I walked away to a car where my wife was waiting, Jacob wished me well.

My wife asked, “What were you two talking about?”

With a smile I replied, “Nothing really. Just the future of direct mail."

Technology and Print: Working in Tandem

As we pulled out of the lot I reflected on my conversation with Jacob about technology and print and the problem I had with the alternator in my car. And I couldn’t help but to notice a parallel.

Much like an alternator needs to work in tandem with a car battery to ensure your car remains in good working order, an effective multi-channel marketing approach needs to leverage the benefits of both digital and printed media to achieve their most optimal result.

That, in today's environment, is a truism. Even with Millennials; like Jacob.



Add new comment