Dumbfounded companies are going back to basics to reach millennial customers. How basic? “This is how you use a tape measure,” or, “Plants need sunlight” basic.
A depressing news story from Ellen Byron and The Wall Street Journal describes how companies like Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., Home Depot Inc., Williams-Sonoma Inc.’s West Elm., and other major retailers are revamping their marketing strategies to reach the 4.8 million 26-year-olds and other mid-20s adults just entering the homeowners market but lacking certain life skills.
“These are simple things we wouldn’t have really thought to do or needed to do 15 to 20 years ago,” Jim King, senior VP of corporate affairs for Scotts told the WSJ. “But this is a group who may not have grown up putting their hands in the dirt growing their vegetable garden in mom and dad’s backyard.”
Companies such as Scotts, Home Depot Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. , Williams-SonomaInc.’s West Elm and the Sherwin-Williams Co. are hosting classes and online tutorials to teach such basic skills as how to mow the lawn, use a tape measure, mop a floor, hammer a nail and pick a paint color.
Lawn-mower engine maker Briggs & Stratton Corp. built a professional studio inside its Milwaukee office last year to make how-to videos. Power-tool maker Andreas Stihl AG calls these new consumers “Willie Wannabes,” compared to their elders, who are “Eddie Experts.”
Home Depot, for example, is transforming its stores into an “education center” for young adults. They’ve developed a series of online videos that some executives worry is “condescending,” yet apparently necessary.
Here’s one on how to use a tape measure:
You’re probably thinking, “They can’t be serious.” But one Breanne Loes, a 26-year-old who spoke to the Journal, relayed a story about building a wooden headboard in her parents’ garage using online tutorials, only to run into trouble with the saw because the blade was backward.
“That was embarrassing,” said Breanne.
D.I.Y. millennials are loving the online tutorials. John Goldbach, an executive at Stoner Inc. said that online sales jumped 20 percent after the company developed basic training videos for products like paint and varnish removers.
For some millennials, however, they’d rather just hire someone to do it. JCPenny is expanding home services like furnace and air-conditioning repair, bathroom renovations, and window-covering installation. Home-furnishings retailer West Elm is selling packages for plumbing and electrical work, painting, TV installation, and hanging wall art and mirrors.
That’s right, some millennials are paying people to hang decorations in their homes for them. But before you storm away from your computer to complain how “millennials are the worst,” consider this: It was the job of their parents to teach them these basic skills.
Some are starting late. “My kids really should know how to change their oil and change their tires. Jeez, why didn’t I teach them these things before?” Stoner Inc.’s Mr. Goldbach said of his four children. “Now that they are in their 20s, I’m trying.”
Too little, too late? Some Baby Boomer parents seem to have missed a big opportunity to teach their kids basic life skills. Thankfully, the free market is responding to correct that failure.
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Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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