The Kitchen Table Effect: Marketing, Mobile, and Motivation

By John Foley Jr.
In August 24, 2015

For more than twenty years I’ve worked with clients to improve their marketing efforts, read (and even wrote) books on the subject, and attended every type of event you could imagine to further my understanding of marketing. But I can confidently state there isn’t a training, webinar, workshop, or state of the art global conference that has taught me more about marketing than my kitchen table.  Or more accurately, the time spent with my family surrounding the kitchen table (just in case you considered the possibility of me having nightly conversations with a table).

I’ll begin by telling you how my family (three boys, my wife and myself) communicates and consumes information today in the kitchen. My two youngest boys hardly ever pick up a printed copy of a magazine, a piece of mail or a newspaper.  My middle son (Trevor) uses Twitter but is not addicted. He prefers to communicate via text messaging. My youngest prefers Snapchat, an increasingly popular app that allows him to send pictures and videos to his friends that expire after a selected amount of time.  Matthew, my oldest, loves his smart phone and does everything with it. – Do I need to repeat “everything”? He is religious about checking his various social media networks via phone, texting, keeping up with the news and more.

The point is, their generation uses different communication channels than we grew up with. And I know a lot of folks that struggle with some of these forms of communication. I have heard it all- “It’s impersonal; they won’t know how to speak properly; they won’t be social.”

What? They won’t be social? Some of today’s channels allow them to be more social than ever! It can just be hard for some to understand – change can be difficult.

But if businesses want to reach my boys on an effective and meaningful level, they must recognize and embrace this change in how younger folks communicate- and how they want to be communicated with. Simply pushing printed materials to them will not work anymore. I’m sorry to say it. Print is NOT dead, but its role in today’s communications certainly has changed. I see companies trying to force print on younger demographics, and when their marketing campaigns fail, they blame younger generations for their methods of absorbing information, calling them impersonal and detached.  You can try all you want, the younger generation isn’t just going to change because it’s convenient for your business; it’s up to you to adapt.

Here in lies the challenges: how do we, as marketing decision makers, work with such a broad audience consisting of everything from ‘super users’ of technology (like my youngest boys) to what I call ‘denial users’ – people that use modern technology reluctantly. The solution is by no means simple, but it is clear: multi-channel marketing.

When I think about multi-channel marketing, I think about how my own family uses communication tools different. I also think about how receptive they would be to various communication methods. This includes my three boys, ages 19 (Luke), 21 (Trevor) and 28 (Matthew), and my beautiful wife Melanie (we’ll keep her age out of this). As I mentioned previously, my 19-year-old is dedicated to Snapchat and is also a big-time texter. He can bang out more texts in a fast and furious way than you could ever think possible and he thinks nothing of it. As for his Facebooking, he checks it before class, when he gets back to his dorm, and before bed. My 19 year-old checks his stuff on his phone and may post a picture here or there but doesn’t communicate all the time in that channel like his younger brother does. However he does text, not at the speed or as often as his brother does, but he does use it. My oldest son, well, he Facebooks and text-messages a little, and he also uses the phone. One thing is for sure, they will all respond rapidly to text message. Many times, you will make a phone call and will get a text answer back in seconds. Don’t bother leaving a voice-mail – none of them even listen to those! The point is, like it or not, this is the way they communicate. Lots of folks struggle with this communication method because they feel it is impersonal, however I disagree. Some of these channels, like texting, are immediate, can be to the point, and the communication can be effective.

Melanie and I text, phone, and still get the postal mail. I admit, when I get the mail, it’s usually one for me and one for the recycle bin. I’m the only one in the family that is fond of direct marketers who spend time personalizing marketing pieces or getting creative (and I’m not talking about simply including my first and last name). But maybe that is because of the business I’m in. As for Melanie, not so much.

Also, we hardly receive any bills via mail anymore because we have opted to go paperless, receiving email notifications and paying them online, and most of them with automatic payments. Our home phone is rarely used. If we are all in the kitchen and the phone rings, we all look at each other, and no one goes for the phone. We all just start laughing, as no one will pick it up. No one calls any of us on that number, except for sales calls, or maybe automated messages that we can check the voicemail for later. We constantly have the discussion around the house as to whether or not we even still need a landline. The point is, for our family, the telemarketing to our landline is “Dead on Arrival (DOA),” much like many marketing communications methods today for some targeted demographics.

I also want to point out the habits of those on the furthest ends of the spectrum. As nutty as it may sound, for teens and younger 20 somethings, Facebook is turning into a thing of the past. From their perspective, Facebook is infected by older generations. They prefer more private and intimate social networks, such as Snapchat, that replace texting with photo and video communication. And what about my 86-year-old-dad? The phone still works but you had better be prepared to use a loud voice and hold the earpiece away from your head as he responds! And forget the personalized URL for him, it won’t work. He prefers traditional marketing. Oh, and he still buys things! He still loves his mail and the newspaper.

The reason I point this out is that it’s very important to understand each consumer’s behavior and the ways each consumes information and participates in marketing communications. For you, as someone trying to reach each target demographic, understand how they participate and communicate. There is not a single silver bullet for all, and there really has never been, although it seemed that marketing worked that way in the past.

If there’s one thing I’d like you to take away from this concept, it’s that communication never stops changing and evolving. In ten years this information will be outdated and the youngest generation will be using a completely new form of communication. So, how do we keep up with generational marketing? By having an open mind and being perceptive of the world around us.  If you’re one of the many businesses struggling to communicate with the next generation of consumers, don’t settle for just conducting business as usual. Challenge yourself to identify how your kids communicate with their friends. There’s a good chance the key to your marketing success is somewhere around your kitchen table.

John Foley Jr.

John Foley, Jr. is the CEO of interlinkONE and Grow Socially. John and his team consult with Epicomm members on transforming their businesses, write strategic online marketing plans to get these companies on a path to online and social success, and provide marketing and fulfillment software solutions, including a unique customer communications management software. interlinkONE’s unique software monitors marketing collateral and fulfillment, both physical and electronic, that allows companies and their clients to interact in a true multitenant application. Learn more about John, his companies, and software solutions at JohnFoleyJr.com, interlinkONE.com, and GrowSocially.com.

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