In this article by Emily Clark, Marketing and Communications Manager at Grabyo, she questions the use of the term 'millenial' as both a targeted-marketing demographic and in wider society more generally...
Apparently, I’m a millennial. There’s nothing I can do about it. That’s the phrase that’s been coined to describe my ‘generation’. So, if you want to market to me you need to post lots of content to Snapchat, churn out video content for fun and maybe even get Zoella to give a shout-out of your brand.
But, that’s not necessarily right. Not just as a ‘millennial’ myself, but as a marketer, I have big problems with the word ‘millennial’ at all.
The first problem is no-one can actually define a millennial. Is a millennial born post-1980 but pre-2005? Does a millennial have a birthday after 1st January 1990 but before 1st January 2000? Nobody can really say. How can everyone speak about targeting a generation that everyone has a different definition of? Why then, when we cannot collectively define a ‘millennial’, do we continue to use the word at all?
As a marketer, one thing I champion and constantly read about within the industry is the need to segment your audience to truly identify your target consumers. Take a look at a marketing plan. One of the first elements you’ll find is a process and understanding of who the target audience is.
Segmenting your audience by age is not enough. It never has been, and never will be. When I think of the diversity amongst my peers, it’s almost laughable to think that we can all be targeted in the same way. My friends and I were born within months of each other, raised in very similar households, received similar levels of education and are now employed in similar-level roles. We sound similar, right? But we all have different interests and appreciate things differently. That’s why I love to converse with them. We can watch the same football match and have different views on who should have won after viewing the same ninety minutes, we can read the same book and have different views having read exactly the same words or we can sit for two hours through the same film, in the same room, at the same time and still come away with different perspectives. We interpret so many things so differently, despite our similarities in so many ways. We’re all millennials, but we all see things differently.
Putting a label on a generation is problematic in general because it suggests that individuals are worth no more than their age and their environment. Netflix’s vice-president of product innovation, Todd Yellin, has previously stated: "there are 19-year-old guys who watch Dance Moms, and 73-year-old women who are watching Breaking Bad and Avengers." Todd’s quote screams, more so than many I have seen on the topic, that segmentation should be based on ‘passion points’ rather than age. Focus on targeting consumers based on the things they can control, rather than the things they cannot.
I cringe at the word millennial. Whenever I hear those outside of the perceived ‘millennial’ bracket approach the term, they almost hesitate, yet when they do pronounce the word they do it with such confidence as to suggest the word actually means something. Millennials are a source of fascination. A riddle. A problem that few have found the solution to.
The fact that more of us are rejecting traditional career standards, have a desire to be healthy and are much more experience-driven than material-driven is more of a sign of the times than of a generation. Take the fact that many of ‘us’ want to start our businesses and are not willing to conform to a single career. My own mother is far from being a millennial, but after embarking on one job for 26 years, she went back to education and began a completely different career path. She was inspired to make a change to her career for the better. This is a fine example of the times, not the people.
‘Millennials’. There’s millions of us, all saying lots of different things based on varying perspectives. “The general connecting thread is that we have similar means to say it—social media and related technology—but when did a vehicle of expression come to define a generation?” That’s a fantastic quote from Victoria Dawson Hoff and one which could be said for our grandparents and parents too in consideration of print media, radio and television. Does social media define us? No. It certainly doesn’t define me.
It does not seem fair to the diversity of our population, and the experiences we all encounter, to round everyone up based on age demographics. As marketers, we have more data at our finger tips than ever yet we still refer back to a targeting process that is based upon age. If we want actionable insights and ultimately results, we need to be more specific about who we want to target. If you’re targeting simply by age, then trust me, as a ‘millennial’, you’re doing it wrong.
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