A Force Awakens

The priorities of the Millennial consumer base is reshaping
the way the marketplace will do business in 2016 and beyond


I don’t care to quibble with Dick Clark, or the Gregorian calendar, for that matter. But for me, the New Year began on Dec. 18th.

At 8 p.m. ET, to be precise, inside Theater 17 of the New Roc Cinema Complex. Third row, middle seat.

When the lights came down and that familiar New Gothic preface faded in onto a screen black as deep space, it was like a Waterford crystal ball had slid down from its perch atop Times Square, ushering in a new era. Midnight on New Year’s Eve is the moment when we say goodbye to the year that’s passed and welcome the year of new possibilities to come. Seeing “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” served a similar purpose for me.

J.J. Abrams remained faithful to the original trilogy that ignited our imaginations a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. He made certain that our auld acquaintances would not be forgot, reuniting us with those treasured characters who provided a cultural touchstone for our collective childhood.

The nostalgia was a nice touch, but it was not the driving force behind Episode 7. Giving us one more chance to cheer on the Millenium Falcon gave the new movie much of its heart. But it was the new characters that will give the next generation of Star Wars its legs. A new New Hope, as it were.

I loved all those Easter Egg homages that Abrams planted in his new Star Wars universe. But it’s impossible to deny that the story and the screen were owned by the saga’s newest heroes

And therein lies the lesson that I took from “The Force Awakens.” It’s important that we recognize how the forces of our past shaped the direction we’re heading. But that future will be determined by our ability to adapt to the changing world around us. We can pass down to the next generation our understanding of The Force, but the power is theirs to run with and wield it in ways we could not have foreseen.

This final blog of 2015 may look like a movie review, but it’s not. It’s a wake-up call for all companies who think that the way they’ve conducted their business in the past is necessarily the way to move forward (Spoiler alert: it isn’t).

A recent article on Forbes.com already christened 2016 as The Year of the Millennial Customer. This is no longer a matter of marketing to a niche consumer base. Millennials – like the ones we saw on the big screen talking to droids and brandishing light sabers – have become, as the article says, “ an enormous commercial force to be reckoned with.” The piece estimates that there are roughly 80 million Millennials in the United States, and reports that they will be “spending $200 billion annually by 2017.” That’s not some fantastical futuristic projection; that’s one fiscal cycle away.

We’ve talked about it in this space, and you’ve read about it everywhere else. The Millennial generation is different than the ones that preceded it (just as the ones that preceded Millennials were different from the ones that preceded them). They don’t want to be sold on products we want then to buy; they want to help create. They don’t want to be targeted by ads; they want to be engaged by the company they’re doing business with. They don’t begrudge a company creating value for its stockholders, as long as it also shares its values with its community.

Millennials also are distinguished by their loyalty. A different article on Forbes.com earlier in the year noted that 60% of Millennials admit to being loyal to a brand they are buying today. If you’re able to establish them as customers, then this enormous commercial force may be with you always.

Soon enough, 2015 will give way officially to 2016. Many of us will gather with family and friends, raise a toast to all that we’ve experienced and witnessed over the past 365 days. And we will take a moment to anticipate what lies ahead.

Wherever you stand when the New Year arrives (or whatever theater seat it is you may be settling into), take a moment to appreciate the ways the world is changing around us. Indulge yourself a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne.

Then retrain your focus on the path ahead, slowly unfolding into the future like some iconic opening credits sequence. How will you prepare for the evolving marketplace? How can you connect to Millennial consumers on their terms? How can we help you accomplish your mission?

We wish you, your families and colleagues, the happiest of new years. We look forward to sharing another year’s worth of successful ventures with you.


David Seigerman has two new books out this fall,
Take Your Eye Off The Ball 2.0 (Triumph Books) and
Quarterback: The Toughest Job in Pro Sports (Triumph Books),
the first ebook in the Real Football Network’s Go Deeper series.
Follow him at @dseigs18.

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