Millennials and the Marketer’s Obsession
Millennials is a hot topic at the moment amongst marketers. If blog posts aren’t recommending 16 Marketing Trends for 2016 then they are focusing on this seemingly elusive customer segment and offering sage advice about how to communicate with them.
This includes social statements such as Millennials prefer social media, selfies and that they are both narcissistic and socially conscious. Millennials have even been deemed worthy enough of a post from The White House, who advised on economic facts for Millennials. Everyone wants to reach them and it makes sense – Millennials are the largest generation by population size so their sphere of influence and potential share of wallet makes them walking targets for businesses.
So, this is my issue: Millennials are consumers. They are no different to any other segment that you want to market your goods to and their changes in purchasing habits evolved in the same way that every demographic cohort has done before; largely through economic changes. In the same way that we desire to do things differently to our parents, the generation that goes before us bemoans change and the same is true for this group. In each generation, the parameters of adulthood change so we get further and further away from buying a house, having children and the traditional life cycle marketing style no longer works. When you add in the number of devices and channels we are communicating via, it becomes a logistical nightmare for marketers to reach their desired customer base and to keep their attention for long enough to convert an action but I feel that this categorisation of the masses misses the point.
Segmentation and deriving insights from consumer information is the best way to create relevant and engaging content. By profiling your customers and knowing as much information about their habits and desires, you can market to them effectively. By separating customers in to groups, you gain aggregated knowledge and can deal with these audiences separately but this is only half of the battle. By continuing to focus on customers as groups of people, by talking about everyone with broad brush strokes, we miss the point.
I scrape in to the millennial bracket by the (ageing) skin of my teeth and certain characteristics are true; I am more liberal than my parents and I will certainly be much older than my parents were when I finally get a mortgage. We are all similar people at the heart of it; we like it when people care and it stands to reason that we love it when brands care. If you are relevant to me, I will respond with my hard earned dollars and this makes me, millennials and humans no different to one another.
For me, obsessing only about Millennials largely misses the entirety of the point – it is businesses that can identify and understand the customer as an individual that will win. You have to drill down in to your segmentation, beyond groups and types, and go beyond first party data to create an emotional attachment with your audience. As Yoda says, ‘in a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way’. Use the knowledge you have about your customers, supplement it with your learnings from interactions and behaviours and send killer content driven by what your customers want to see.