The unreachables

It’s a rare meeting, pitch, or roadmap that doesn’t involve “reaching millennials”.

The term, coined in 1987, was meant to refer to people coming of age in the new millennium – originally those of us born circa 1982. Most sources still define millennials as born within a twenty-year period beginning in the early 80’s.

This may be a generation, but it’s completely useless as a media/marketing target.

The pace of change in media, content, entertainment, and the way marketing messages are delivered is far too fast to measure in generations. It’s not just that today’s sixteen-year-old and today’s thirty-six-year old grew up in completely different worlds. The way we experience, consume, and understand our world changes dramatically year over year.

So, in reality, “millennials” is totally meaningless. 

“Reaching millennials” is almost always code for one of two things: capturing youth culture (whole different deal) or reaching the unreachables. It’s the unreachables that have really changed the way we need to approach business.

Unreachables. We don’t watch TV. We don’t have cable or any push-only subscriptions. We don’t make appointments for media. We don’t have landlines. We’re often totally unwired. We don’t see print. We use adblockers. We “miss” other ads because we’ve already moved on from the target.

We know when we are being “branded at” and can, often do, choose to ignore it.

We make decisions by reaching out to a trusted group of sources that we personally curate, and we can reach these sources from anywhere at any time. 

We’re really hard to map as an attribution model or “customer journey” because there are so many places you can’t see us.

Unreachables don’t consume media in the way we are expected to; don’t sit through ads; absorb messaging in a different way, if at all; aren’t where you expect your audience to be after decades of traditional TV, print, radio, and traditional digital marketing.

Unreachables are the huge and growing audience whose lives don’t align with the plan you made last year, let alone the canonical wisdom you’ve built up over a decade or more.

This has nothing to do with millennials. You want the unreachables.

Tomorrow, November 9, at 2:30 PM CET, I’ll be leading a roundtable at Web Summit’s Marketing X on “How Do You Reach the Unreachable Audience?”. Come say hi if you’ll be in Lisbon. If you’re not, I’ll be sharing some of the group’s insight and comments post-conference. 

The network of you

You are media.

Everyone is media, because everyone is a storyteller.

The photo you shared, the joke you told, the meme you sent on its merry way – all stories from the network of you.


We are all telling stories, every day, and if you come at your brand understanding that, it can help you tell its story.

Is it more important to trust or to be trusted?

Yesterday I was puzzling out a tough problem and I called two close friends to help me work it through – which they did.

It was a really nice feeling to know I could call on these resources and that I could trust in what I would receive, and feeling that emotion yet again when the problem was lessened reinforced my trust.

Later that night, one of my friends called me for help on a knotty professional problem of her own. Being able to help, and being trusted in my ability to contribute, meant so much more to me than any help I had gotten earlier.

This applies to brands, products, and services as well as to people and resources. We place a lot of value in having systems around us that we can trust. But we must place an even great value on being trustworthy, and valuable, in the minds and hearts of others.

Open it up

Ideas are an inexhaustible resource. Some people prefer to keep their ideas close to the vest, in fear that they will be stolen. Most ideas benefit from the sunlight of sharing. An idea that passes through the hands of a few smart, creative thinkers is bound to be made all the better for it.


Conversation around brands isn’t any different than conversation at a cocktail party. The most interesting one will have the most conversation and leave the greatest impression. (The trainwreck will leave an impression, too, but it’s not the one you’re looking for.) Would you talk to your mom with that mouth?

Photo by Mo Riza. Creative Commons.

Marketers are Bad, Bad People (loooong post)

From Paul Carr’s TechCrunch piece on integrated advertising, especially on Twitter (the piece is wonderfully entitled NSFW: Give Me Ad-Free Conversation or Give Me Death (Please RT):

A tweet isn’t a “piece of content”. It isn’t editorial. No matter whether we’re talking about what we’re having for lunch or suggesting a new movie or sharing a piece of news, what we’re really doing is having a good old-fashioned conversation. Following people on Twitter is like organising the world’s largest cocktail party – we’ve decided who’s opinions we trust, and we’ve invited them to come into our homes and talk to us about things they are genuinely interested in. The moment people start screwing around with that principle, the whole system collapses.

Couldn’t define the current and/or idealized nature of Twitter any better. As marketers (Carr: “What I do is Good and Pure; what they do is Bad and Dirty.” So true) we are faced with a world where any traditional notion of advertising is easily avoided by all smart people and most not-so-smart. So we leverage ourselves into content and “conversations” because people like those. At which point, like an airborne contaminant, we risk ruining that content/conversation experience by rendering it no longer genuine (the word “authentic” is currently in my “social media cuss jar” via which folks in our meetings are fined for egregious buzzword use*).

One answer to this is to leave the conversations alone in order to maintain their authentic real and genuine nature, thus retaining what is currently a quite effective marketing tool.

Over/under on that happening? Thought so.

* Social media cuss jar is combined with Internet jargon cuss jar and includes such words and phrases as “100,000 foot level”, “drill down”, and the execrable “best practices”. You get the picture.

art by Myaku-nya