Millennials have been called a lot of things both good and bad. Lazy. Entitled. Elusive. Diverse. Altruistic. Educated. Whatever you think of millennials, though, it still remains a fact that many organizations are scrambling to figure out how to speak to millennials through their marketing. When does it make sense to focus on marketing to millennials, though? If they’re not your target demographic, can you just ignore them? If they are your target demographic, does it make sense to completely alter your efforts to appeal to them? Read on for answers.
What Are Millennials?
Millennials are the largest demographic group in the country, consisting of 75 million individuals born between 1980 and 2000. This group is more racially diverse than any other generation in America and they’re often regarded as trendsetters when it comes to culture and technology. Given that these millennials represent the largest concentration of buying power, it’s understandable that organizations are eager to attract their attention.
How Are Marketers Speaking to Them?
If you do some research, you’ll find an ocean of tips, advice, research, and what not else regarding marketing to millennials. Some of the trends I found include emphasizing authentic content, utilizing inbound marketing, speaking to people’s interests, prioritizing mobile, and so on. What stands out the most, though, is how similar these tips are to general marketing practices, regardless of age.
In some extreme cases, though, millennial consultants are charging as much as $20,000 an hour to give advice to corporations like LinkedIn and Oracle on ways that they can both attract millennials as buyers and as talent to hire. (The New York Times) Hiring millennial consultants certainly isn’t necessary for the average company—it’s likely not even necessary for LinkedIn and Oracle—for quite a few reasons. The first being that insight on marketing to millennials can be reached on its own through audience research. The second reason being—according to The New York Times—“Millennials aren’t real”.
In fact, some of the millennial consultants admit that a large portion of their job involves explaining misconceptions about millennials and correcting the flawed, stereotypes way that many approach this group.
Nevertheless, I was born between 1980 and 2000, and I’m real. So the New York Times is not entirely correct. This idea that all millennials can be defined as and appealed to as one homogenous group is extremely silly, though, especially in light of the fact that we’re the most diverse group in American history. Beyond that, it goes against nearly everything that modern marketing, which is based so much on extreme personalization, stands for.
The rise of digital channels along with the notion that millennials are inherently tech-savvy has made marketing to millennials the trendy thing to do. It has also made it an easier (or at least more accessible) thing to do.
Still, there are certain circumstances where marketing to millennials makes more sense than others. In all circumstances, though, avoiding the mistake of clumping all millennials together is essential.
When is It Appropriate to Market to Millennials?
The catch is that ‘millennials’ is much too broad a group to seriously market towards. If you know your target audience falls within the age range of millennials, this can be a solid start for your marketing efforts. In this case, prioritizing millennials in your marketing strategies makes a lot of sense. Nevertheless, stopping at age range when creating personas and targeted messages is a mistake. According to Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, pigeonholing based on age range isn’t particularly useful. Based on his broad research of human behavior trends, millennials don’t particularly stand out when they’re compared to previous generations.
Bock says, “What we’ve seen is that every single generation enters the workforce and feels like they’re a unique generation, and the generation that’s one or two ahead of them looks back and says, ‘Who are these weird, strange kids coming into the workforce with their attitudes of entitlement and not wanting to fit in?’” Mr. Bock said. “It’s a cycle that’s been repeated every 10 to 15 years for the last 50 years.” (The New York Times)
While attitudes in the workplace may not align perfectly with buying behavior, the general misunderstanding of new generations and how to deal with them appears to apply across the board and should certainly influence marketing efforts.
Building off of this, age is becoming a somewhat obsolete targeting criteria according to Skyword. Recent research shows that many values–such as political or religious values–that once were highly correlated with age now transcend age groups or, at least, aren’t limited by them. Moreover, many young adults (i.e., millennials) are disregarding the typical progression of life choices such as marriage, purchasing houses, and having children. This has made age in general much less indicative of lifestyle and thus making it much more difficult to predict behavior based exclusively on this. Luckily, access to robust analytics and measurement tools coupled with the strong presence of millennials on digital channels mean that we marketers have plenty of rich data that will allow us to dodge the bullet of judging by age.
Again, knowing that your audience typically lies within the millennial demographic is useful information, but it’s not enough. Using the wide variety measurement tools at every marketer’s fingertips will allow us all to avoid painting with a broad brush. Do research and market to similar subsets of people based on buying behavior and personal interests–do not market to massive groups of people that were born within 20 years of age of each other. If your audience doesn’t typically fall within the millennial demographic, this advice is doubly important. Just because your consumer base isn’t part of the largest, trendiest, most misunderstood generation does not mean they should be neglected.
Baby boomers and beyond can be reached by digital channels. The misconception that older generations aren’t present on digital channels is just as stereotyped and weak as the misconceptions about millennials.
Remember, age is just a number.
Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Blurred Lines: The De-Silo-Ing of Marketing to discover why breaking down organizational silos is key to staying agile and ahead of your competition.