It doesn't take much to find marketers, leaders, influencers, bloggers and journalists all talking about targeting Millennials.
There was an article in Campaign talking about a poll taken by market research platform Attest back in 2016. The article claimed businesses do not understand Millennials. It also showed that over a quarter of businesses did not do any market research, despite the fact a huge 75% admitted to not fully understanding their audience.
Are we any closer to understanding our audience two or more years on? I suspect not.
My personal opinions aside on the importance of actually knowing your audience, one of my first thoughts from was whether businesses struggle with millennials because it's a pretty huge target market?
If a real target market at all...
Drawing up lines
Millennials are Generation Y; those born between 1980 and mid-1990s. Those who came of age as one millennium ended and the other started.
So a product that appeals to a 37/8 year old will also sell to a 24 year old, and there's a big cut off either side?
Think about a professional, single female in her late 20's, living in Clapham, London. She's a Millennial. Then think about a 36 year old married mother-of-two who has just gone part-time and lives in Sussex. She's a millennial too. Are they therefore the same?
I'm being deliberately obtuse of course, and hoping that others who talk about their target marketing being millennials also begin to realise it's a bizarre approach to draw a ring round these huge age groups and then pin your marketing strategy on this.
I understand there are generational differences and shifts, and that lines have to be drawn somewhere to help us understand how behaviours are changing. However, I know that I'm more likely to have more shared interests and buying behaviour with other 30-40 something year old parents born in the late 1970's than I am a 24 year old single Instagram and Snapchat fanatic. I would happily shop in M&S for a pair of tailored shorts, yet some born in the 1990's think it a laughable thing to do (this did happen to me; there were sniggers).
So, does this mean those on the periphery of the generational bands don't count as much as those slap bang in the middle? In which case, you then need to draw 'micro generations'? Is that just age groups? i.e. 18-24 years-old, 25-34 years-old etc.
Use additional or alternative ways to segment and target people. Better still, go back to the value of your product or service
Go back to our two Millennial ladies from earlier. There are big differences between their disposable income, lifestyles, goals, problems (more on this shortly), motivations to buy and therefore behaviour. Each of these silos are all better ways in which to target people.
Instead of fixating on generations and how obsessed Millenials are with technology, speed and lack social contact in person (FYI, I still love a paper diary and a bit of face-to-face networking), focus on what your product or service is, what problem it answers, and for whom. It's age-old marketing.
It matters more what your product does and what it solves for somebody than it does what their age is, the latest cool social media trend or whether they supposedly have an entitlement complex because Baby Boomers spoiled us (this is my favourite assumption, thank you!).
If you're really clear on what your business and products / service(s) is, then it should be simple to clearly identify who you are targeting and how.
Your target market should never be Millennials. It should be those who your product is right for because it solves a problem, irrespective of when they were born.
A last word of warning, however...
There are so many ways to target people. It can get overwhelming and time consuming; especially if you're following a purist content marketing approach.
If you were to dig down into every single motivation, goal and behaviour, you would spend all your time thinking, researching and planning, and not much 'doing'. So whilst I advice against generic, wide banding of people, I also don't advocate spending too long considering every single possibility.
I run marketing workshops on Targeting and Segmentation. If you're looking for guidance on who you should be targeting and how to develop your value proposition, messaging and marketing channel selection, then send me an email for more information firstname.lastname@example.org