In today’s marketing world, it has become common to segment society into categories. We do this by income, gender, location and religion. We especially love to segment by age, the very concept of generations being a tool that attempts to categorize based on only one aspect of a person’s identity.
We are on the right track when we realize that like-minded people have similar markers; understanding what makes these groups “tick” helps us market to them better. But the problem is, these segments are still quite wide. There are many people who have similar income levels, live in the same region or are the same age who are still vastly different from one another. Despite a similarity in age, rarely are two Millennials going to be at the same stage in life at the same time.
In his excellent article, “Your Marketing to Millennials is Failing Because of Your Stereotypes”, writer Jonathan Crowl attempts to drive home the vast diversity within Millennials. “The differences in lifestyle, interest, responsibility and opportunities between an 18-year-old, college-bound high school graduate and a 33-year-old married father of three are significant,” he states. “In spite of that, a marketer might lump these two people into the same boat if they aren’t careful about how their campaigns target a Millennial audience.”
All generations have a wide span of differences within their demographic. However, Millennials are currently at the 35-and-under stage of life, which is a time of fast transition and change. This group will grow and change and experience more in just a few years than other generations will in a decade. One of those big, life-changing events many Millennials will experience for the first time? Having children.
In the book “Millennials as Parents”, co-authors Jeff Fromm and Marissa Vidler state: “One of the things that modern brands must come to grips with is that Millennials who are parents act, think, behave and consume differently than Millennials who are not [parents].” For the authors, who also wrote a previous book on marketing to Millennials, this is an explanation of why their studies and findings for the parenting book are sometimes different than what they published in their earlier book. Both books focused on Millennials, but the findings were surprisingly different when studying Millennials who were new moms and dads versus studying the generation generally.
The differences aren’t just at the parental phase-of-life, however. A Millennial who grew up in urban areas versus rural will probably have a slightly different values system, as will Millennials who are part of the middle class versus upper or lower. Family size, relationship status and religious or political affiliations are also categories which transcend and/or impact generational similarities. Really, each person is a combination of the various segments marketers use to separate them.
As all of the seemingly-expert advice screams at you to market better to Millennials for the survival of your business, it is important to not worry about the generation so much you waste time and money marketing to a type of Millennial that isn’t really part of your target audience. Maybe the hipster, skinny jeans, man-bun cliché will never be interested in your product or business. You shouldn’t spend dollars pretending he will be. Instead, get a clearer picture of the type of Millennial you are seeking. Environmentally-conscious? Rural ethics? Disposable Income? Or maybe the man-bun hipster is exactly who you are trying to get in your door. There are roughly 75 million Millennials in the U.S. — I’m sure the type that fits your business and brand are out there.
Once you have a more specific idea of who it is you targeting, the “how” and “where” and “how much” logistics on reaching them fall into place much easier. And that strategy will be a much more effective one, with better chances for a return on your investment.
Emily Enger is a Millennial farm kid turned farm journalist. She also works in marketing, serving as communications director for a nonprofit that covers nine rural counties in northern Minnesota. These opinions are her own and should not take the place of legal or professional advice. To comment or pitch future topics, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org . For reprint permission, email editor Joan Kark-Wren at email@example.com .