Marketing to millennials: you’re doing it wrong

It’s time for marketers to realise that the maturing millennial generation needs to be understood beyond pigeon-holing into categories and demographics, writes Jo Goddard.

Jo Goddard‘Millennials’ – it’s the buzzword that never seems to lose resonance. We’ve been so focused on trying to understand their habits and behaviours, and work this into our marketing strategy, that we seem to have missed the important fact: they’ve grown up.

‘The millennial’ as an indecisive young adult with high disposable income and an unquenchable thirst for more is quickly dissolving, to be replaced by a maturing cohort complete with property ownership, significant debt and little ones of their own.

The way we market to millennials must inevitably progress and evolve alongside this generation that we can’t seem to stop talking about.

 

Millennials are maturing

Millennials make up a quarter of the world’s population now, so their journey into adulthood should be of particular interest to marketers. Their growing incomes (predicted to triple in the next 15 years) will be spent on those industries that have defined them as a generation, such as tech and entertainment.

Brands that can pick up on this focus will resonate and engage more effectively with millennials, as they progress through their consumer journey.

Marketers need to recognise that what and how millennials buy will change, especially as their discretionary spending gets squeezed by other responsibilities. Having grown up with smartphones and social media at their fingertips, the way they buy is very different to that of their parents or grandparents at the same age.

A generation who research before and as they buy, often purchase online – and focus on their health, wellbeing, self-development, and travel often and widely – is one that’s ripe for marketers to capitalise on.

Engaging with millennials today must be executed with the purpose to ensure long-term business sustainability, starting by understanding that this group of consumers is evolving with every passing day.

 

Don’t merge the millennials

Marketers should be wary of blanket use of the ‘M’ word around this generation – apparently they’re not too fond of the term. Millennials are clearly tired of being lumped together and stereotyped, but why aren’t we listening? As marketers, it is our duty to deeply understand our audience; not just know them and pigeon-hole them into categories and demographics to make our job easier.

Understanding audiences means respecting and acknowledging them as individuals. The ‘millennial’ generation includes those born between 1980 and 2000 – a span of 20 years. The vast gulf between the needs and interests of a 16-year-old versus a 35-year-old should be obvious to marketers. Overarching claims that ‘all millennials’ think or buy a certain way are becoming increasingly irrelevant and misguided.

Understanding the nuances and variation within the segment, through thoughtful and tailored research, allows marketers to unveil the glaring need to stop treating them as a homogenous group, and start adapting to their diverse and maturing needs.

 

Me, myself, and millennials

Audiences want to feel a personal connection with brands; they want brands to be aware of their individual preferences, align with their values, and offer them options and solutions they may not have even thought of yet.

This can be a lot to ask of marketers – know what your audience wants before they even know it themselves – especially when these wants are constantly changing and developing. But it’s not out of the question.

Contemporary technology has already proven greatly beneficial to marketers, in terms of the value passive data collection and predictive analytics can hold. The data these technologies can provide offers great insights for marketers wanting to target a particular consumer at a specific place or point in time.

But just as millennials age, so does the data. Marketers ideally need dynamic real-time data collection to ensure the best possible outcome for data-driven marketing strategies.

Given that millennials will likely be consuming and avidly and discerningly spending for another 50-60 years, it will surely benefit brand marketers to enunciate a compelling purpose, and use dynamic data to offer an evolving, localised and personalised brand experience in which millennials (as unique individuals) can meaningfully participate and co-create.

 

Jo Goddard is head of quantitative strategy at The Leading Edge (an Enero Group company)