Katherine Jacoby Don't Call Me A MillennialMillennial : (adj.) generally accepted as anyone born between 1980 and 2000; (noun) Marketing’s top buzzword for the past 3 years.

Everywhere you look in marketing there is buzz about how important millennials are and how to reach them. It is no wonder why marketers are eager to attract these consumers, they are expected to spend $200 billion annually starting in 2017 and are often incredibly brand loyal. 70% of millennials say that they will always come back to the brands they love. Yet, despite these impressive numbers, are marketers missing the boat when the focus is on “millennials”? The classification of millennials spans 20 birth years, consumers who are currently around 17-34. That is a big gap, and while these age groups may share a greater connection to technology than previous generations, there are still decisive differences among them. Some millennials may have grown up with technology in hand while others were later in life before the widespread adoption of cell phones, tablets, and social media. While their adoption rates of technology and social media are similar, their platforms of choice, usage patterns, and demands of brands and experiences can vary greatly. Given the fact that only 1% of this group say that they are influenced by advertising, finding the optimal connection point with them is imperative.

Most notable of the differences among millennials is the age gap itself. Bustle recently featured an article with nearly 3o things, from games, to movies, to technology, that older millennials would remember while younger millennials do not. A list of memories may  not seem like an important indicator, but it says a lot about how these consumers grew up and developed. Those differences in the formative years can have a lasting impact on what the consumer most connects with and responds to. Further to that point, an 18 year old and a 30 year old are both millennials, but should they be marketed to in the same way?  Many would argue that the two are at very different life stages and thus are pursuing different goals and have different needs. At 18 many are beginning college and deciding what they want to do, while at 3o they may be more established in a career and building their post graduate life. As a brand it is important to connect with consumers on a level that delivers value to them and their particular situation. Content that resonates with college sophomores may not connect to the focus of those in post graduate stages, and vice versa. 

Beyond the difference in age among millennials is the consideration that targeting based on age segments alone is a far too simplistic approach to marketing. While it has long been an important differentiator among consumers, age should only be a starting point for savvy marketers, especially given the wealth of consumer data available today. How a consumer chooses to consume content, where they like to spend their free time, and the types of experiences they place the most value in provide a much more compelling base for developing an effective strategy to connect with consumers. For example, an athletic  company that targets based on the activities consumers participate in, such as running or yoga, would be more effective than one that simply targeted millennials.  It is important to remember that some consumer preferences can span an entire generation, like millennials, while others will be more specific to a smaller cohort differentiated by age, lifestyle, or region. Generational segments can help further a brand’s strategy and targeting efforts, but is often not the strongest foundation available.

Millennials have been and will likely continue to be the talk of the marketing industry as their buying power and influence over older and younger consumers increases. I will not argue that this group is important to brands and should be considered in strategy  and content development, but I challenge my fellow marketers to dig a little deeper and deliver a more meaningful connection to your target market. Age is only a number, it does not define who we are or how we see the world.