We’ve all heard about Millennials: they live with their parents and can’t save up for a house; they spend their income on avocado on toast, buy overpriced coffee, and couldn’t live without social media.
Targeting ‘Millennials’ allowed advertisers to tap into a lifestyle-orientated, experience-driven generation, while also steering clear of consumers jaded by decades of push-message advertising and financially crippled by the last recession.
“Millennials are the future!” we cried. Alas, they’re not keen on this label; three quarters of under-30s do not feel the term ‘Millennials’ represents them. According to research published in The Telegraph, more than a third say they don’t even know what it means.
Undeniably, Gen Z should not be targeted in the same way.
They may have grown up with similar socio-political and economic changes, and their ideologies might align in the broadest of terms, but there remains a “generation gap”. This is particular prevalent in communication and use of technology – 80% of Fortune 500 Execs claim that communication across generations is the most challenging issue in the workplace.
Generation can impact our attitude to money, career aspirations and personal life. However there is no proof that it affects our purchase journey or decision making behaviour.
Perhaps life-stage is more relevant than generation or age. With this comes the assumption that a 25 year old with children will lead a life more similar to a 45 year old parent, than another of the same age but with no ties. But even this approach is archaic at best.
If media is fragmenting at the speed of light, technology is disrupting almost every category, and start-up culture is putting a new spin on the markets we all thought we knew. So why shouldn’t we be just as savvy and forward-thinking with our audience work?
Marketers would be better placed to group consumers by mindset – by their shared values, motivations and category behaviours, ahead of birth year. As Mark Ritson points out: “brains don’t change in a decade. We’re still driven by the same goals as our ancestors.”
Ambiguous audience groups such as ‘Families’ and ‘Women’ – or indeed ‘Millennials’ – should be dissected before planning communications, using attitudinal segmentations to better explain and identify key groups, rather than relying on demographics alone. After all, if you are selling overpriced coffee, you’re better off going after a group of coffee-loving, city-living young professionals than just anyone between the ages of 18-35.