Article

Lauren Archer
Lauren Archer 24 February 2016

Millennial Marketing As A Tactic. Please, Desist!

I was born in 1986. This, unfortunately, throws me in the pool labelled “Millennial” and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m the one they’re talking about in those guides you read about millennial marketing.

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I block your ads and you’re left incensed, wondering why I’d ever want to do that and what the heck you can do about it.

I’m the one you want to sell to but apparently you just don’t know how to. Apparently.

On a daily basis I read articles claiming to have the secret to nailing millennial marketing, as if organisations today are dealing with a species from outer space, not someone who just so happens to have been born in the era of Flashdance, Spandau Ballet, neon eye shadow and the dawn of androgynous style.

You know… like us millennials aren’t paying customers, just like everyone else ever f***ing born.

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And perhaps I get a little more annoyed about “Millennial Marketing” than people I went to school with, or friends that don’t work in my industry. But perhaps that’s because I’m a marketer who believes that segmenting an audience into a patronising label isn’t the way to endear yourself to anyone.

I feel exactly the same about the label “The Grey Pound” by the way and I’m infuriated with the completely basic approach to marketing to this demographic, too.

My parents are in their early-to-mid-fifties and receive emails that speak to them like they’re 80. More shockingly, these emails come from companies they’ve bought from in the past, so you’d hope said companies would use the insights at their disposal, like purchase and browsing history, to better inform their marketing.

Bearing in mind this bunch have more disposable income than any of us, you’d think marketers would have a little more respect for them.

But anyway, I’m going off piste a bit here. This is about millennial marketing and how much I, as a millennial, totally despise it.

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This whole post stemmed from me reading an article in The Drum by Tanya Korobka, questioning whether content marketing is the only way to tug at the heartstrings of millennials.

In her piece, she artfully discusses (and she has vast experience in this field, I’m told) how the “ad-loathing millennials” essentially make it harder for marketers to do their job, and how she thinks this is a good thing.

She also goes into the point that “not all millennials are the same”, which is very valid indeed. Bravo, Tanya, you’re absolutely right. The number of brands today I see executing millennial marketing tactics aimed at these individuals as a complete, uniform group is astounding.

All told, it’s a good post, but something certainly jarred with me when I read it.

So, why am I being so angsty about millennial marketing?

“Millennial” is a word that makes marketers think that they’re addressing user needs.

Like there’s a little list that they’re gradually checking off (“well they like social media so we did some stuff on Twitter!” and “they like music so let’s put a rave in our advert so they know we understand them!”) to hit certain criteria that they think appeals to this oh-so-mysterious group of humans.

But, they’re not addressing any needs at all.

They’re using ill-advised emojis (HIYA, HOUSE OF FRASER!) and putting apostrophes in hashtags (HOW’S IT GOING, ASDA?!) to try and hit the millennial marketing sweet-spot. And all of it reeks of insincerity and amateurishness.

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I’d even argue that this blundering approach to millennial marketing is actually a bigger turn-off than not explicitly, tactlessly targeting this demographic altogether.

I hated House of Fraser’s first foray into emoji marketing and I sincerely hope someone got a hiding in the boardroom for it afterwards, because that kind of blatant targeting is embarrassing and detrimental to a brand image.

Has it cast a shadow over my opinion of this long-standing brand? Absolutely.

Even Tanya’s very impressive case study about the #NameOurPlane campaign they did for Thomson Airways made me squirm, and to be honest, it went against a couple of points she’d made earlier in the article. It’s interesting that she quotes the Youth Trends Report for millennials aged 16-24. And here’s me thinking not all millennials are the same.

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I’m genuinely not trying to cause beef with her, by the way, she absolutely knows her stuff, I’d just be very interested to see how many of those 1 million entries came from the upper-end of the “millennial” group. I’d guess very few.

And really, does it help brand loyalty? Am I, as a millennial more likely to fly with Thomson Airways because they let me name their plane? Nope!

I’m likely to get my savvy-self over to Skyscanner and find the best rate for my flight because that meets my user needs. Users today build brand loyalty with the brands that make sure they meet their needs, regardless of their age.

And that’s the crux of my point, I suppose. Stop targeting millennials like they’re some forbidden fruit, to the extent that you’ll forego all brand integrity just to get the slightest chance of appealing to them. Instead, make your products and services better FOR EVERYONE, because believe me, if it’s good enough, you’re delivering return on attention and it’s addressing user needs, those pesky millennials will find it.

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#RantOver

Do you agree with Lauren’s angst toward blatant “millennial marketing” tactics? We’d love to hear your thoughts over on Twitter – don’t forget to use the hashtag #PointlessMarketing so we can join in the conversation with you.

Want to learn how to create useful content that addresses your user needs without patronising age segmentation? You need to download our free Useful Content Checklist:

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