I attended a conference today on church fundraising, and the question of tailoring fundraising to various age groups was brought up. When the subject of reaching out to young adults, people under 35, all eyes fell on the guy next to me and myself, the only young adults in the room.
I said that if there's one generalization you can make about all of us is that we know when we're being played, and we don't like it.
Maybe it's because our generation has spent every moment from birth on squirming under marketing demographers' microscopes. We're the Underoo generation - some market researcher somewhere woke up and said "Hey, kids love Superman. Let's put Superman on their underpants." And it worked so well that they put Superman everywhere.
I'm not saying the Underoos don't work. If they made Underoos in my size, I'd probably be wearing them now. I guess what I'm saying is that we're accustomed to being bombarded with messages, pictures, products designed just for us. Because we're special. And for trivial stuff, like Underoos and the awesome Hello Kitty PJs I'm wearing right now, it's cool. But you can't sell me things of substance the same way you sell me underwear.
For people as bombarded with advertising as we've been all our lives, most fundraising organizations aren't capable of the clever marketing tricks, fancy pitches, or heavy-handed manipulation required to suck us in. Unless you're a Jedi, your Jedi mind tricks won't work on us. See, if you try to trick us and you fail, which you probably will, you've lost our interest and our trust.
So the only option you've got left, in my estimation is just to say "My organization needs some money. Can we have some?" Or maybe that's just me.
And I was thinking, bear with me here, that this may be part of why so many people from my generation get all their news from The Daily Show. See, we've got no patience for the cloying manipulation of Fox News. Rupert Murdoch's got nothing on Mattel or Hasbro when it comes to convincing me I want to buy something, whether it's a product or an ideology. MSNBC can't win me by selling themselves as the anti-Fox News, HLN can't win me by making stories for people with no attention span.
But John Stewart, he's not trying to hide his agenda. He's not trying to pretend he's fair or balanced. He's not sneaking vegetables in with your cheeseburger, if you will. Where folks on Fox and MSNBC and even NPR at times are trying to feed you opinions as facts, Stewart feeds you facts as facts and opinions as punchlines. There's no smoke or mirrors. The man's biased, of course. He's got all kinds of opinions with which I disagree. But he's not trying to trick me into agreeing with him with manipulative headlines and selective reporting. He's not bullshitting me. And my Underoos and I appreciate that.