The Changing of the Guard

One of the biggest challenges we face in the sportfishing industry is getting more young people involved. In particular, the GenY crowd (sometimes called Millennials) has proven a tough nut to crack. They’re now 15-35 years old and have considerable buying power. Getting them to spend more on fishing will reap huge dividends.

At the ASA Sportfishing Summit in St. Pete Beach a couple of weeks ago, Cam Marston of Generational Insights  gave a terrific presentation on the American generations that impact our market — from the Matures (over 70 years of age) to the iGen (less than 14). For a late Baby Boomer, like me, it was a valuable look at our differences and what we can do to bridge the gap. At the risk of oversimplifying Marston’s insights, the several American generations are all speaking with significantly different mindsets bound together by a common language that only serves to make things more confusing.

When you speak the same language it’s easy to be lulled into the belief that you mean the same things, share the same attitudes and have the same values. But anyone with children or who works closely with significantly younger or people can tell you that’s not always true. It’s vital to keep that in mind if you want your business to be relevant through this changing of the guard.

GenY has been called the “Me Me Me Generation.” They invented the “selfie.” They grew up with amazing technology and they’re extremely comfortable with it — perhaps even more comfortable than with face-to-face encounters. They’re a critical group because their 20-year spread represents both today’s youth and young adults and tomorrow’s business leaders. The youngest of them are not yet adults and the oldest are now buying homes and having children of their own. Because of the spread, perhaps no other generation offers as many challenges to meaningful analysis.

Lots of Millennials still live at “home” with their parents. They’re getting married later in life, having children later and are going through the traditional life stages later than did the earlier generations. To paraphrase Marston, they are five to seven years younger (less mature, in some cases) than their birth certificates might indicate, and they must be approached with that in mind.

And, according to Forbes, 78% of Millennials place more emphasis on buying experiences versus owning “things.”

For retailers and manufacturers targeting Millennials, Marston offered some tips.

Whatever you’re trying to inform them about, whether it’s technology or spinnerbaits, must have an immediate application for them. This advice must be unique to them, despite the fact that they want what their friends have. As he puts it, “They want to do what their friends are doing, but with a unique twist.”

Sounds like a tough nut to crack. But what choice do we have? They have a lot of power already, and are gaining more quickly.

If the American generations were areas in a political race, the Millennials would be the most important “battleground state.” Lose it at your peril.

A rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s be that tide.