As more and more businesses have been trying to adjust to the fast customer behaviour changes in the past half decade, when asked “Who is your target market”, the answer from companies trying to target a younger audience seems to be more and more “Millennials”.
To start with, we will identify this customer group in a similar way to which most Marketing publications do: People born between the 80’s and mid-90’s, which, broadly, grew up in a modern age dominated by technology, tend to be more adaptable and have shifting values. In other words, however, this is the group of people who in 2018 is in the age range 23–37 years old.
Is this group of people, really, so homogeneous?
When looked at this closer, some real dangers can be identified — which can be highly detrimental to the way in which a brand communicates its messages, if not dealt with properly. Let’s analyse this in an overall market context looking at advertising a single product or brand first:
A “Millennial” customer persona?
When referring to a single customer segment, given the current fast-moving market conditions it is essential a brand has very specific criteria through which they identify and filter the mass public down into this pool of people. Widely known as a “customer persona”, this is the “ideal customer” which the business tries to reach through its outbound communications, and is a very in-depth analysis of the overall demographic, psychographic and behavioural set of characteristics which make him or her a perfect buyer.
Looking at the people in the age range 23–37, there are a number of major characteristics which dramatically prevent them to be eligible of being seen as one singular group for marketing purposes:
- “The times, they are A-changing…” — and they have been very rapidly mainly in the past two decades, with the mass adoption of internet, personal computers and mobile networks — as well as technology overall. While people in the early 80’s have finished College or University most probably without owning a computer, they were caught up straight in the middle of the modern technological evolution entering maturity. This caused them to become much more curious — at first — in adopting new technologies, however they are currently facing a barrier to adapt to the emerging trends driven by the “younger millennials”. Moreover, the way they consume media tends to be very different compared to the latter-mentioned sub-group, and from a marketing perspective they are still more willing to engage with traditional media such as TV or Outdoor Advertising. They also consume media differently online, being much more attentive to each individual post, as opposed to the millennials in their 20’s, who tend to “scroll” through their news feed much quicker.
- “When we were young…” — While a millennial born in the 80’s is today entering family life, possibly being married or even with children, the “90’s kids” are only finishing University and entering the “real” job market. This causes radically different outlooks on lifestyle and expenditure, which reflect not only in their product choices but also in the type of values they look for in brands. For example, a person below 25 would be looking for experiences and social values much more in the brands they consume, while the slightly older demographic is more influenceable by practical characteristics, security of purchase or “Science-Fiction elements” according to one of the recent Mintel reports analysing “Marketing to Millennials”.
- The shift to Online and Online Social: Thinking beyond the core product benefits, many times — mainly if the added brand value is high — the augmented product characteristics are the ones to make a difference in the purchase decision for the most people. While thinking about these core differences between the two age poles of the broad “millennial” demographic, apart from the already identified aspects there is also another set of divergent factors: The under 25’s grew up with Social Media already incorporated in their lives, they place a much higher value on peer approval and their online social “brand”, and are much more open to purchasing online than the older group. While they might not have such a strong purchasing power — having generally lower disposable income due to them only entering the job market — the incentives which appeal to them, as well as the journey to making a purchase, tend to be much different from the 35 year-olds. This is a very important consideration when mapping the company’s strategy and ideal target audience over the next 3–5 years!
Looking at the above, it is clear a strong differentiation exists between certain mini-groups under the “Millennials” demographic and customer group. Why is it, however, so critical brands do NOT adopt a singular “Marketing to Millennials” strategy?
- Weak brand identity
There’s no more room for “one-size-fits-all” tactics. As customers become more demanding in terms of expectations from the brands they consume, brands also become bigger and bigger parts of their lives. These have to become more and more specific in terms of who exactly they target in order to have a long-time success. The values which the brand identity is being built on would also differ very much from one “mini-group” to the other, a fact which would directly impact the loyalty from different targeted customers to the others. This would very likely result in a weak brand identity and therefore low degree of relationship development with consumers, which is detrimental in the current market state.
Either focus on a smaller niche “Millennial” segment and design the mix of values and brand message to directly and deeply appeal to them, or develop a portfolio of products under the same brand, having each product targeting a different segment and developing an individual strong brand for each.
- Low effectiveness of Marketing
As discussed: Different demographics consume different types of media, in different ways and through very different channels. A simple example would be Social Media, and the clear split between Instagram and Facebook audience engagement: While Instagram has been growing fast in both usage and popularity amongst the under 30’s, also becoming a very important Influencer marketing channel (apart from traditional Paid Advertising), Facebook’s main audience is now over 30’s. Data showcasing the latest Paid Advertising results and figures backs this up, while suggesting a continuing trend in this direction.
While this is only an example, the insight is valid on a broader scale. It is very important to consider these facts, as from a brand’s perspective, the marketing budget & resources are often very limited, therefore not allowing a brand to be fully present and actively engaging on each marketing channel available.
Making the right choices in terms of communication channels is essential for increasing marketing effectiveness. How will your brand go about it? Will you advertise on Facebook, or Instagram and Pinterest? Will it be mostly mobile, or rather Desktop-focused? Will you produce video content and Podcasts, or Blogs? Will you have Influencer partnerships for brand awareness, or tap into your communities offline through Guerrilla Marketing? Is Online Retargeting an effective strategy for you? If so, on which channels?
Find out for each of your niche customer groups what are the channels they engage most on, and create a “core” mix of channels first. Focus on this reduced number of channels in the beginning, and only then add additional ones as required, and when you have a better insight into your specific audience’s preferences. If you have a portfolio of products directed to different demographics, it is perfectly fine to have different Channels in the mix for each.
Pro tip: Marketing is getting smart! Most brands use personalisation nowadays to create bespoke customer experiences around their specific journeys. Whether you choose to manage these in-house or hire an agency, integrating technology in your communications will not only increase your customers’ loyalty, but will also reduce your marketing spend and gain you significantly better returns on your investments. The first steps towards automating your marketing are:
a) Tapping into the power of Email Automation and Sales Funnel optimisation
b) Retargeting Social Media ads to website visitors
- Decreased flexibility & Innovation
As the broad “Millennial” demographic category advances in age and behaviour, trying to adapt to the new trends driven by “Gen Z” (teenagers under 22), a company trying to target this whole customer spectre — or segment — at once will find itself in difficulty to be flexible. The reason: The younger millennials will be much more dynamic in preferences and lifestyle changes than the older ones, and by having a single strategy targeting all of them will always be detrimental — if not to more of the smaller demographic groups — to at least one of them.
The solution: Go back to your customer persona’s and find your competitive advantage in the product delivered to each smaller customer group created around each of them. Review your targeting strategy and market positioning, and leave room for innovation and flexibility by breaking your operations down into smaller pieces, targeting smaller customer groups.
Wrapping it up:
Don’t get us wrong — Millennials are certainly a great market segment to target, and a very exciting one to build marketing campaigns towards. However, in such a dynamic marketplace, and with this broad customer segment changing at different paces each day, it is insufficient to consider them overall as your singular target segment — unless you have different products, targeted at different micro-audiences within the segment, with a different positioning strategy and branding around them. If you’d like to make your marketing more efficient, sustainable, generate great results as well as shine in front of your audience, go more specific — such as “Young Millennials aged 23–28, living in urban areas, University-educated and with a highly active lifestyle. Socially conscious and interested in building a personal brand, opinion-leaders in their circle of friends and micro-influencers for their online audiences” — adapted, of course, to your target product and desired audience.
If you want to have a chat about what would be best for you, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org — we’d be happy to provide you with a free customised audit — no strings attached.
Written by Andrei Tiu