According to a Zipcar study released earlier this year, Millenials – that generational segment born after 1980 or so who are adults now – think that having a smartphone is a lot more important than having a car. In fact, 40% of that group think that losing their phone would be a bigger hardship than losing their car. They also think it would be harder than losing access to a computer or a tv. Meanwhile, only 16% of persons over 35 would rather do without their phone than their car, and 40% of that age group put the car at the top of things they would not want to do without.
This wide discrepancy in the need to own a car has the auto industry back on its heels. It’s a sea change that has implications for all kinds of other business segments as well – including standard brick and mortar retail, and radio. AM/FM radio built its relationship with generations of listeners by virtue of its front-and-center placement in the car. Millenials lack-of-love affair with the car means they are less exposed to AM/FM radio as well.
The importance of a smartphone in the lives of this generation of younger adults has impacted radio in other ways – millenials don’t wake up with an AM/FM alarm clock, and they discover music via social networks rather than by hearing their song on the radio.
Radio broadcasters and auto manufacturers face similar challenges in needing to re-engage this key demographic. And radio – in all its forms – broadcast, satellite and streaming, is playing an important part in the strategy that car companies are pursuing to do just that.
The other day I was driving my car and listening to the radio and noticed two car ads. A Nissan ad featured Pandora, talking about how a trip to the store can turn into a rock concert with Pandora. The other ad talked about an entertainment system that lets one kid in the back seat watch the ball game and the other stream a movie at the same time. Car manufacturers have tuned in to the fact that connectivity and entertainment are essential to this group, and that’s what they are selling.
That’s an exciting proposition for radio. Trying to entice Millenials, the automotive industry is focused on selling dashboard systems that offer potential car buyers connectivity and choice, and feature radio (in all its forms). It’s a renewed chance for radio to engage with Millenials, on their terms.