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Why Microsoft (and you!) May Need to Be More Inclusive of Millennials

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Why Microsoft (and you!) May Need to Be More Inclusive of Millennials

We’ve all seen them: the corny commercials, the advertisements that are more embarrassing than they are informative. It’s difficult to create a marketing and advertising campaign that’s effective. It’s especially difficult if you aren’t actually working in an office with members of your target demographic. How can you target products to middle-aged women if your brainstorming session is made up of men? How do you market to millennials when you haven’t bothered to talk to one?

The simple answer is, you can’t. Rather, you can, but it’s not likely to achieve the results you’re hoping for. If you need more proof of this, just look at Microsoft. According to Daniel Victor’s New York Times article “Microsoft Created a Twitter Bot to Learn From Users. It Quickly Became a Racist Jerk,” Microsoft created a Twitter bot named @TayandYou. Originally, Tay was simply supposed to converse with other Twitter users by “mimicking” what users said. In the end, the effort was a complete and total fail. Microsoft shut the bot down less than 24 hours later because the bot started spewing racist and inappropriate tweets.

Microsoft blames the failed experiment on Twitter users who manipulated the bot into saying those things.

Really though, the whole idea of creating the bot in first place says more about Microsoft being out of touch with millennials than anything else. According to Victor, “Microsoft said the artificial intelligence project had been designed to ‘engage and entertain people’ through ‘casual and playful conversation,’ and that it was built through mining public data. It was targeted at 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States.” Going a step further, Tay’s Twitter bio read, “Microsoft’s A.I. fam from the internet that’s got zero chill!”

This marketing flop suggests that Microsoft hasn’t done an effective job of connecting with the millennial market. If they had, they would have learned that while “zero chill” is a phrase used by some millennials, when used by Microsoft it comes across as trying too hard. Members of Generation Y also might have cautioned Microsoft to ditch the bot altogether. After all, real social media engagement is social—not automated.

Trying to reach out to, and engage, a specific market segment? What are you doing to listen to, and understand, that segment? Are members of that demographic part of your marketing team? Represented among senior leadership or on your board? If not, there’s a good chance that you’re missing some key input and information that could help you be more successful—and help you avoid the kind of misstep that Microsoft recently made.

We call this “key employee demographics required for growth”—a conscious, and concerted, effort to ensure that you’re surrounding yourself with, and receiving input from, members of your key target audiences. Those key external audiences should be directly reflected in the demographics of your employees, your leaders, and your board.

Are they?

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