By Peter M. De Lorenzo
Detroit. One tidbit to emerge from last week’s NADA convention in San Francisco was a new MTV study that suggested that millennials – aka Generation Y – really do like cars. As Jamie LaReau reported in Automotive News, millennials, according to the MTV study of 3,600 people conducted last spring, actually do like cars and are “aging up into car ownership.”
Apparently the “news” in the study is that millennials are finding that cars are essential in the real world, but that they would like the buying process to be less time consuming and conducted with more clarity – wouldn’t we all? – and that they should have more customization options available that are actually affordable. Other than that, they’re good with cars.
“The insights gleaned from this first auto study show a generation that emphasizes car ownership and the critical role it plays in their day-to-day lives,” said Berj Kazanjian, senior vice president of ad sales research at MTV. “Millennials, like other generations, see car ownership as a way to establish independence, but millennials also see car ownership as a way to craft their unique adult identity.”
Wow, imagine that. After all of the angst and hand-wringing that went into catering to and marketing to millennials, it turns out they’re remarkably very similar to previous generations. Maybe somewhere along the way a few of them discovered that they can’t take a road trip to adventure or to find themselves with Uber. That there’s more to life than just going along for the ride.
Do you have any idea of how many billions of dollars car companies and their ad agencies have spent chasing the millennial mindset over the last decade? I can assure you it’s staggering. Entire car programs were altered; massive advertising campaigns were dissected and nuanced to the very last detail in order to capture the millennials’ attention. And do you have any idea how many faux marketing “geniuses” were made in this business because they insisted that they had “cracked the code” of the millennial mindset, and that they and their companies were about to enjoy untold riches due to their brilliance?
It’s basically all unmitigated bullshit, as I pretty much suspected every step of the way.
As I’ve stated many times previously, the freedom of mobility is a powerful thing. People can make pronouncements about how different they are and how they view the world in an entirely different way in focus groups, but give them a taste of driving and the freedom it brings and everything changes. Because with that freedom of mobility comes the freedom of discovery, about life, living and myriad other things that swirl around in your head when you’re given that freedom. Discoveries about yourself, I might add, that don’t quite fit in the cut-and-dried world of a focus group study.
I love that quote about “aging up into car ownership” too. It’s funny how along with the first decent job comes the realization that in order to get from point “A” to “B” and in order to participate in all of the other associated realities of life that go along with it people discover they’re going to need a way to get there.
There’s another point of the MTV study about the millennials and how they view cars that made me laugh and that is that they think they deserve more targeted advertising that really speaks to them. Well, of course they do. Why would the most self-absorbed generation want it any other way?
I’ve seen advertising and marketing parsed to the finest degree possible in order to gain the millennials’ attention, and it turns out that a lot of it was simply wasted time and effort, especially at the lower end of the market.
(If I see one more auto manufacturer marketer tout an entry-level car aimed at the “youth” market, I’m going to scream. This just in: If the young people targeted can’t afford it, then what the hell are you doing? And why are you kidding yourself that a new driver is going to be able to get financing or anything else associated with buying a car, without adult assistance? That’s just more unmitigated bullshit, Part II.)
But enough about millennials. They’ve been outed as being not much different than any of the previous generations when it comes to liking, needing or wanting cars. They’ve grown into it, congratulations. And every auto manufacturer marketer and advertising agency can now take a deep breath and start making more rational decisions again.
I’m more concerned about Generation Z, the kids coming up after the millennials. I’ve read all of the early tea leaves suggesting that this generation will be more entrepreneurial, more independent and smarter, blah, blah, blah. And I’m sure there’s some marketing “genius” in training out there that will claim they have “cracked” the Generation Z code too.
Well, before anyone starts laying down their thoughts, I will tell you this: Whatever grand pronouncements are made about the qualities (or liabilities) associated with Generation Z, I predict that they will be much more aggressive in their appreciation for mobility, the promise of future mobility and advanced technology.
I believe we’re on the cusp of a new generation that will actually dig cars and what they represent. In fact, I’m looking forward to livin’ on Channel Z.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.