Oh, those darned millennials. With the entrance of this new generation into the marketplace, all manner of entertainment, including coin-op, is witnessing the largest demographic shift in our nation's history. Larger in numbers than the Baby Boomers, the millennials arrive as consumers with the kind of demographic clout that only the most foolish of marketeers would dare to ignore.
Tattooed, pierced and often devotees of obscure trends, they boast an unflattering reputation as slackers, underachievers, unengaged and generally unaware. Even those oldsters, whose memories of 1960s' rebellion are still vivid, find this younger generation incomprehensible. They seem to embrace the new and the archaic with equal alacrity. Many are fans of classic videogames from the 1980s, as well as the still-emerging virtual reality technology.
Much has been written about the young and their entertainment tastes. Very often young consumers are portrayed as gorging indiscriminately on movies, videogames, television and portable media. The image painted is often one that recalls swarms of locusts or a shark-like feeding frenzy of entertainment consumption. In reality, however, the opposite is likely true.
Millennials just might be the savviest consumers of entertainment products in history. Raised in an environment virtually awash with unlimited entertainment options, they are quick to accept or reject a concept through online crowd-sourced consensus of peers or evolving personal taste. And woe to the marketer who steps out of line, for retribution can be swift and merciless. Just as quickly as a product gained popularity, it can become an object of ridicule and consumer disdain. More often than not the message is spread through tweets, blogs and visual memes.
It is easy to see the casualties that have fallen victim to these hyper-refined entertainment tastes a day or two after a big budget movie opens on a weekend. The verdict seems to come in before the first newspaper review is written or final credits scroll on the screen. The same can be said for music, videogames and television shows. No amount of promotion, no matter how clever, can salvage an entertainment product a significant portion of millennials sample and reject. As far as I can tell, all verdicts are final and cannot be appealed.
How do you attract such discerning consumers? I would propose that the same marketing strategy for entertainment would work with fussy millennials, as with any connoisseurs. It is no secret as to what makes a fine dining establishment popular. In broad terms it is quality, service and presentation. You can add ambiance into the mix as an extension of presentation. Coming up short on any of these three attributes can spell doom for a restaurant.
If applying these concepts equally to an upscale eatery and coin-op seems odd, it helps to think of both on their own terms, though the same principles apply. It is also noteworthy that many successful street and FEC operators have already adopted this strategy.
Even more, many operators have taken exactly the opposite approach. They cut costs to the point of decreasing quality. Viewing their customers with thinly veiled contempt, they foster an attitude that filters down through the workforce. Worst of all, they stop paying attention to the small details. It is precisely this kind of business strategy that drives restaurants out of business and millennial entertainment gourmets away from machines.
Almost without exception, those who adopt these losing strategies see themselves as hard-nosed, no-nonsense businessmen. Far from being lazy, they are simply unaware. In a piece of business irony any 20-something can readily understand, they are everything they accuse the millennials of being.