As the Millennial population has emerged as the largest generation, marketers from all industries are trying to figure out how to market to them. There’s no shortage of books, articles, guides, and posts outlining the best pathway to connect with Gen Y. And yet, many marketers struggle with the best ways in which to connect with these young consumers.
At various times throughout this year, this blog has discussed this issue, especially while we were in the process of conducting “The Millennial Project” – a group public radio effort spearheaded by PRPD. That study eschewed data, and instead focused on ethnographic interviews of a dozen young public radio listeners.
It was a fascinating study, and a reminder to all of us involved in radio programming and marketing that the myths, and broad generalizations about any group of people – whether they’re defined by their gender, their ethnicity, or their age group is both dangerous and irresponsible.
And we heard that type of feedback from our Millennial MRP respondents. While they didn’t mind the label, many took exception to the stereotypes older folks unfairly assign to their generation.
All of that came to mind when former Jacobs consultant Chris Crowley – now expertly programming Entercom’s KGON/Portland – sent me this new Motel 6 :30radio commercial. It’s voiced by long-time, folksy spokesman Tom Bodett. Here’s how they’re approaching going after Millennials:
So, how does this approach go over with real Millennials? Does humor and sarcasm “print” with them? What about all that Millennial slang? And do they even know who Tom Bodett is?
But without paying for a focus group to answer theses questions, where do you go to reach a sizable group of Millennials? For me, the problem was solved by simply walking down the hall to the jācapps end of the building. Most of our mobile app employees are, in fact, Millennials. And it wasn’t hard to find a great sample of bright, opinionated, and thoughtful young people.
Here’s what they had to say about this Motel 6 spot:
Alena Annarelli – Sales & marketing intern
I understand what they’re trying to convey in this ad, but as a “Millennial,” I get tired of businesses saying the only way they can relate to our generation and seem current is through the use of slang.
I would be more inclined to stay at a Motel 6 if they focused on highlighting their lower prices, room sizes, and trendy/technologically current amenities they have in the rooms and motel since most of the people in my generation are in debt from college, without a full-time job.
Beth Ayers – Director, Business Development
Not only did I have to Google half of the slang terms this Tom Bodett (?) character used in the commercial, I didn’t see how any person (Millennial or not) would find value in the Motel 6 chain from this ad.
Since when is it “hip” to have “contemporary floors” or “flat screen TV’s”?
What would’ve been better for the brand to do is focus on how they make doing business with them easier on me. They have an entire My6 program that incorporates features like quick social sign in, exclusive member only deals, and even have preferred rates for logged in app users!
Jeff Arcel – Senior Web Application Developer
Didn’t know who Tom Bodett was/is. But I get it, it’s funny to hear someone not “of the generation” use slang and I see why they do it.
Even though at 33 I’m one of the oldest millennials and I don’t feel like I’d sound any more convincing using that sort of slang.
Eric Carter – Mobile Developer
I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think it works.
I personally don’t use some of the terms used in the commercial but i have/ know people who use them in everyday language… (It took me a while to understand them all and I like it.)
It more than modernized the motel 6 commercials that I used to hear growing up.
Kate Coyle-Levy – VP of Software Development
I’m slightly past the Millennial age range… but my reaction is it isn’t clever enough to be funny.
While I get the tongue in check language, the delivery loses me. I don’t hate it but I also wouldn’t tell my friends about it.
Chelsea DuFour – Client Services Manager/Developer
I understand the direction the advertisement is taking, and how it could appeal to a certain demographic, however I was not enticed by it.
I don’t use the majority of the slang (heard in the commercial) in my vernacular and found it to be annoying. To be honest though, I dislike the association with Millennials because of the increasingly negative connotations with the generation.
I don’t feel like I relate to most Millennials, and didn’t feel like I could relate to the commercial in a way that would make me seek out a Motel 6.
Christina Lee – Client Services Specialist
In regard to Motel 6’s Millennial campaign, I found the commercial pretty hilarious in a corny parent kind of way.
Some of the terminology was a little outdated but, Tom Bodett’s voice put a new twist on certain phrases.
Speaking of Tom Bodett, I had no idea who the voice behind Motel 6’s ‘We’ll leave the light on for you’ was until today! Finally putting a face to the voice — Lit AF!
Kelsey Neveu – Graphic Designer
I don’t think this campaign works at all. A majority of the words he’s using are rarely used in an actual conversation and typically used solely in text messaging.
Honestly, because of all the slang he’s using, it totally distracts from the actual message of the advertisement. If anything, this campaign tends to insult the Millennial generation rather than get them to stay at Motel 6.
Also, who’s Tom Bodett??
Kyle Strait – Mobile Developer
For luring in the business of Millennials, I’d say no it doesn’t work. Millennial slang coming from someone that’s older than a Millennial doesn’t appeal to them.
It borders on cringeworthy.
I’m only aware of Tom Bodett from hearing other Motel 6 ads/commercials.
Paige Templeton – Lead UX + Project Management
I like commercials that poke fun at current culture trends so this made me chuckle.
Sadly, I do not know who Tom Bodett is.
Nathan Turner – Director of Product Development
I didn’t get all of the Millennial lingo, but thought it was a pretty clever spot.
I only know of Tom Bodett to be the voice of Motel 6.
Leah Watt – Web Application Developer
To be honest, I’m really not familiar with much of the lingo in the advertisement, although I’m not technically a Millennial.
That being said, it sounds like language that is used more frequently by the younger members of the generation (today’s teens, as opposed to 20-somethings), who aren’t necessarily in the market for hotel rooms.
The ad itself is fairly amusing and therefore catchy enough; I’m just not sure they’re catching the attention of their target audience.
So, there you have it.
A dozen Millennials. A dozen opinions.
And while there is some commonality, it’s not hard to get the sense that Motel 6’s approach struck their target (assuming it IS Millennials) in many different ways.
And that’s the point.
Millennials are a diverse generation (just like Boomers and Xers), and can’t be pigeon-holed or stereotyped. After the three ethnographic studies we’ve conducted in the past decade – but especially this newest Millennial Project for public radio – I’m convinced that “Generational Generalization” as I’ve come to call it is one of the dumbest things we can do as marketers.
Or maybe the lamest.
BTW who’s Tom Bodett?
He’s an author, voice actor, and radio host. He’s been part of the panel on NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” and has been the voice of Motel 6 commercials for more than three decades. His tag line on those spots has become iconic: “I’m Tom Bodett for Motel 6, and we’ll leave the light on for you.”
And he’s a graduate of my alma mater, Michigan State.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,000 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.