In recent years, marketers seem to have been obsessed with Millennials and touted them as the next big generation of consumers, but some wonder whether they’re making the age-old mistake of rushing to judgment about this segment of young adults. Millennials by definition are 18 to 35 year olds, whose lifetime of digital exposure has caused them to be stereotyped in many ways. But with almost 80 million Millennials in North America, who span an almost 20-year range and who have many personal preferences and patterns, some say it’s impossible to lump them all into a simple, singular segment. But other industry experts believe that assigning labels to demographic groups makes it much easier to understand them. Despite this ongoing debate, it hasn’t stopped marketers from giving Millennials descriptive labels and then targeting them based on these highly specific qualities. Is this a savvy strategy or is it costing brands business? As this discussion rages on, discover the different views on the best ways to reach Millennials.
The List of Labels
Over the past few years, marketers have been consumed with Millennials and strived to understand what differentiates this large market of young adults. This fascination has led marketers to create in-depth narratives around their beliefs, behaviors, views, and values in an effort to define the typical Millennial consumer. As a result, there are many general perceptions about the Millennial market that have eclipsed the bounds of marketing to become part of the mainstream ideology. According to Digiday.com, marketers have often assigned the following labels to Millennials to describe their preferences, patterns, and personal traits:
- Digitally dependent
- Only reachable via mobile and social efforts
- Respond to authenticity
- Have a strong sense of entitlement
- Have very short attention spans
- Concerned about global and social issues
- Prefer brands with a philanthropic mission
- Want to interact with brands on social media platform networks such as Facebook and Twitter
These traits vary from very positive to extremely negative. And regardless of whether or not they’re true, they’ve all contributed to the perception of the Millennial demographic.
And while some marketers strive to distinguish Millennials by each of these labels, TeamHFA.com reports that other industry experts prefer dividing these young adults into the two groups of younger and older Millennials. Younger Millennials include individuals from ages 18 and the mid-twenties, while older Millennials are adults in their late twenties to early thirties. Marketers came up with these dual distinctions because it’s difficult to believe that the preferences of a college-aged student are the same as the interests of a mother in her early thirties. They’re experiencing different personal, financial, social, and lifestyle factors that influence their views and choices. They also have different personal needs, professional expectations, income levels, and life choices that will affect the types of marketing and messaging that resonates with them.
Proponents of Profiles
Marketers who favor the use of labels to classify Millennials believe that it’s essential to group an audience by their shared characteristics in order to target them most effectively. MillennialMarketing.com explained that the demographic distinctions of age and gender are often the first routes of audience classification because they’re known to have an impact on lifestyles, attitudes, consumer behavior, and media consumption. Most marketers take this segmentation even further by considering the factors of income, religion, stage of life, and category usage.
Marketers who support the use of these labels say that the distinctions discovered enable them to paint generational portraits that provide a better understanding of a particular audience. They argue that this insight is critical to developing relevant marketing and messaging that effectively target a specific audience.
With so many marketing channels available to reach the Millennial audience, labeling Millennial segments provides important insight on where and how they like to communicate, as well as the topics that pique their interest. This allows marketers to plan, produce, and place their marketing efforts most effectively and achieve the greatest results.
By segmenting young adults by their common characteristics, marketers say they can better target this audience and get the most out of marketing to them.
Skeptics of Stereotypes
Are these stereotypes all hype? While there’s some truth to the generalizations for certain individuals, marketers who look down on labeling say that not all Millennials are created equal and these adjectives aren’t sufficient to describe an entire demographic or generation. According to ArticulateMarketing.com, Millennials as a generation aren’t a monolith and there’s actually nothing so distinctive or special about them and the specific traits assigned to them that can’t be said about any youth culture. The focus on social and global causes reflects the Baby Boomer generation, while an interest in technology is also seen with Gen Xers.
To many marketers who reject the practice of labeling, the idea of stereotyping such a large demographic group simply makes no sense. BusinessNewsDaily.com reported that some industry experts deemed labeling by demographics to be patronizing and overly simplistic for a few reasons. For one, Millennials are much more diverse than any prior generation. Secondly, the Millennial experience is widely different from one person to another, so it’s practically impossible to make sweeping generalizations.
Others see such stereotyping as pointless because everyone has different opinions of what truly defines a Millennial. Each marketer seems to have their own list of labels to describe the average Millennial, so there’s no real agreement on what a Millennial really is. As a result, it’s impossible to easily specify and recognize every young adult who could be considered as part of the Millennial audience.
In addition, skeptics of stereotyping say that other qualifying distinctions play much larger roles in shaping and swaying the personal preferences, patterns, and perceptions of these young adults.
And Millennials also don’t appreciate these general and dismissive labels, which is why many are actively trying to defy them. As a result, marketers who incorporate these stereotypes into their marketing efforts may be impairing their results because they don’t appeal to the young consumers they target.
More Advanced Marketing Methods Than Simple Stereotypes
But just because they may not be as distinctive as many marketers think, Millennials are still very important due to their size and purchasing power. No matter where marketers stand on stereotypes, they all agree that Millennials matter to brands of every size and scope since they are poised to become tomorrow’s dominant group of consumers. To avoid the entire controversy over the use of stereotypes in marketing to Millennials, smart marketers choose to use the following savvy strategies:
- Avoid sweeping generalizations about views and behaviors since many young adults are averse to them.
- Research what Millennials want by asking them directly via surveys and social media.
- Focus on individuals rather than generational groups.
- Use a media mix of online and offline channels.
- Excite and engage Millennials with things they enjoy, like contests and games.
- Focus on individuals rather than generations.
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Written by Michael Del Gigante