Recently, I was having a conversation with a junior member of my staff, and she was recounting a story about a recent date she'd been on with a guy she'd met on Tinder, an online dating app.
It turns out the date was so bad, she found herself playing with her phone during a particularly boring part of the conversation. And what was she doing on her phone? She was actually swiping through Tinder while her date sat across from her.
Admittedly, I was shocked that this was the current state of the dating world. I asked her why she felt it was okay to be swiping through other potential matches while she was on a date. But it was her answer that shocked me even more. "What's wrong with it? Why shouldn't dating be this way?"
In the marketing world, we talk a lot about millennials, and spend a great deal of time trying to figure out how to reach this unique demographic.
Never have I understood more clearly that millennials aren't just a new generation; rather they represent a new normal.
Millennials have a wholly new perspective. They aren't just dating differently – they approach the world in a completely new way. Quite simply, the view is different from where they are; they aren't content to accept that things have to be the way they always have been.
Marketers think they understand millennial behaviour, but perhaps they don't. Millennials aren't just mindlessly swiping through Tinder because they're knee-deep in the hookup generation; they're engaging in what feels like a natural progression in the dating world. They multitask in almost all other areas of their lives, so why shouldn't that extend to a date?
Millennials are smarter
In 2009, Uber broke onto the scene – changing how people transport themselves around the city. And why shouldn't this be the case? Why should our only option be to hail a cab or wait 15 minutes after calling a cab company? Why can't we simply use our smartphones to arrange a ride? When a few taps on a smartphone can let you watch a movie, buy a book or order a pizza, who wants to pick up the phone to hail a cab?
Millennials have brought a lot to the sharing economy – whether it's finding an easy mode of transportation through Uber, choosing a unique vacation destination through Airbnb, or ordering lunch through Ritual – and these things have empowered people to embrace their options and choose the path that makes the most sense for them.
So why should Tinder be any different? If a millennial is able to access virtually everything else in life through a simple swipe, it likely felt like a very natural progression to check for potential partners the same way.
An entire revolution of life hacks have developed from the millennial generation – whether it's a Buzzfeed article showcasing the 21 things you can do with old CD cases or allowing entire economies to emerge. Thanks to an always-on, always-learning mindset brought about by ubiquitous connectivity, millennials are smarter and more resourceful than any previous generation – and they're changing the way we do business.
And admittedly, these are all things that I believe have made life better; so let's not pigeonhole them into this negative group of lazy twentysomethings focused solely on convenience.
Millennials don't see it as A versus B
When you think of the ads and stunts that used to flood the industry, more often than not these saw brands pitting themselves against their competitors. The Pepsi/Coke taste challenge is perhaps the most famous for embracing this strategy early on and asking people to do little more than simply choose option A or B.
But the game has changed.
When people are swiping through their Tinder app, odds are they aren't viewing these faces as competitors but rather as options. If they don't like X, they can engage with Q – and if Q turns out to be a dud, there's a whole alphabet of other people to try instead.
And although recent publicity has brought the negative light of this situation to the surface, I think it's quite reflective of the current economy and merely showcases the empowered millennial mindset.
Think about music-sharing service Songza: I currently have a playlist called Today's Male Singer-Songwriters. I didn't have to choose one artist and spend an hour listening only to him. And this entire service is seeded in the millennial 'Why not?' attitude. Why should I have to pick one when I could experience 100? Why can't I discover and choose what I like best rather than being told what I should be consuming?
You can do all the research you want; you can cater to short attention spans and the most effective ways to reach them on Instagram – but the truth is, millennials have fundamentally changed how they approach the world. This is how you're going to reach this generation – by understanding where they're coming from.
Conversation is currency and understanding not just their quirks but how and why they view the world is key in creating an effective relationship.
While some of the ways in which millennials are changing the world may seem shocking, or foreign, the bottom line is that they are having a profound impact on how businesses operate and communicate with their audiences.
Brands would do well to think of my staff member, out on a date and still swiping through Tinder, when they think about ways of engaging with millennials. You'd best not be boring, because your competition is likely just a swipe away.
Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.
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