You Need to Stop Millennial Marketing Right Now!!
Millennials are the demographic cohort following Generation X who were born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
I have a problem with this whole Millennial thing. You may have gathered that from this post’s title.
The purpose of defining a demographic group is to generalize a concept. Once generalized, we plan a course of action. We base our strategy on that concept.
We figure out what they want and how to best get our messages across.
We understand that demographics apply to similar population masses not individuals. Still, it is helpful to work on cohesive groups. Members of these cohesive groups tend to think and act in similar ways.
Notice I said cohesive. I say that a lot in this post. When applied to a group, cohesive means they are “closely united.” (Merriam-Webster) It also implies their actions will be somewhat predictable, as a group.
And therein lies the problem.
Let me take a few steps back
I have business degrees. I also have culinary degrees. It’s a bucket list thing. No matter.
A while back, I started a cooking club for some kids in the building. They would come over once a month and get decked out in chef’s jackets and hats.
Then we’d make stuff, mostly cookies. They’re only eight to ten years old. Once they did manage some good little Pavolvas.
They're young, not stupid.
My nieces and the parents of some of my cooking club kids asked if I could do something more formal. They wanted to learn how to hold kick-ass dinner parties.
The guest list was a nice cross-section of Millenials.
- Abbie (18) and Bruce (19),
- Charlie (22) and Daniella (20),
- Ellen (23) and Frank (26),
- Georgette (29) and Henry (33).
- Issy (31) and Jean (31)
- Then there was me (56) and my wife (age omitted in the interests of self-preservation).
The ages are right, the names, not so much.
I thought it would be fun. It wasn't.
First, we had a heck of a time agreeing on a menu.
The younger ones wanted more finger foods. Think more bar snacks than fine dining. They also wanted to know the best drinking games.
I learned what Beer Pong was. I'm not impressed. It's unsanitary.
The older ones wanted something that was fancy. But, they also wanted it easy enough that they wouldn't spend the evening in kitchen-jail. They wanted fine dining that left room for social interaction.
They asked about formal place settings. They wanted insight into the Mother Sauces, and their variants. They were big on simplified versions of advanced techniques.
I started getting worried.
The first rule of dinner parties, or of customer engagement, is to know your audience.
The second rule is to give them what they want.
I knew my audience. What they wanted was contradictory.
I was in trouble.
We discussed many options. We settled on hors d’oeuvres while waiting for a standing rib roast to cook.
It was a compromise.
A compromise is a solution that pleases nobody.
The food was great. The dinner party was a trainwreck.
Bottom line, the participants had little in common. No subject of conversation engaged everybody. No matter which way the conversation turned, someone felt left out.
We were not a cohesive group.
We couldn’t make a 12-person dinner party work. Yet, we expect to have a unified conversation with 83 million Americans.
How is that possible? It isn't.
In What Way are Millennials Cohesive?
This is a “demographic group” whose members range in age from twelve through thirty-five.
We express awe at how large the group is! There are 83,000,000 in the USA alone. Wow! That's a quarter of the whole country!
I offer a bigger demographic group, for your consideration.
It has 7,500,000,000 members. Every single buyer of your product or service is represented. As a group, they spend trillions every year.
I call it...
Wait for it…
I wonder if it will catch on?
Why not? It’s only a little more useless than “Millennial.”
Bigger is only better if it acts as one unit. We need to be able to predict those actions with some certainty. Size is only good if it's cohesive.
There's that word again.
What exactly does a twelve-year-old have in common with a thirty-five-year-old? Nothing.
What actionable data can we pull? Again, nothing.
Many people are cutting the definition of “Millennial” down. They define it as just the legal adults in the gang. Then, they trim a little off the top for good measure.
Their Millennials are eighteen through thirty years old. That’s a step in the right direction.
It’s not a big step in the right direction. It’s still useless.
One can argue that it’s only a twelve-year gap. That's true as far as arithmetic goes. There's also a little logic to it. There’s isn’t much difference between say, a forty-five-year-old and a fifty-seven-year-old.
These particular twelve Millennial years are a whirlwind of change. I would say they are the most volatile twelve years of our lives. During those years, physical growth is minimal, but mental and emotional growth zips along at a frenetic rate.
Yet, we insist on treating all Millennials as one. Why?
During those twelve Millennial years, we...
- Choose our career. (Our first career, but we won’t know that yet)
- Party a heck of a lot
- Decide between a trade and college
- Party a lot
- Complete our degree or certification
- Party some more
- Decide if we do the post-graduate thing
- Get a job
- Move out
- Pay our own bills
- Party a lot less
- Meet a special someone
- Party as a couple
- Tie the knot, formally or otherwise
- Lease a car 3 times because we have more income and credit than savings
- Wonder why we don’t have savings
- Start saving
- Buy a house
- Party a lot less
- Have a kid
- Party rarely
- Have another kid
- Sell a house
- Buy another house
- Party hardly ever
- Consider Career # 2
A Millennial can be anywhere along this timeline. At what point are they cohesive? Who exactly are you targeting?
Marketing to Millennials, How?
The best thing about Marketing to Millennials is that no matter what you say about it, you’re RIGHT.
“Millennials just want to have fun” : That's true enough for all of us. For the younger Millennials, more so.
They haven’t taken many of life’s body blows yet. They change their tune after life's first swift kick to the nads.
We all thought we had the world figured out by eighteen. Every twenty-five-year-old wonders how the world could change so much in just seven years.
I went through it. You did too.
That's called, "Life Experience."
The worst thing about Marketing to Millennials is that no matter what you say about it, you’re WRONG.
“Millennials just want to have fun” : False. If anything, my discussions with Millennials twenty-five and older prove the opposite.
They have a clearer view of things than we did at their age. They don't mind researching stuff on their own. They grew up with instant access to a wealth of data. They are less blinded by what they are told to think.
They are less blinded by what they are told to think. Right or wrong, they prefer to form their own opinions and beliefs.
They hold on to those opinions and beliefs but are willing to entertain new ideas. They are more willing and able to accept a variety of lifestyle choices.
They are a lot more mature than I was at twenty-five.
We do them a disservice saying otherwise.
You just can't make blanket statements about Millennials.
They aren't far apart in terms of age. They're light years apart along their life journeys.
If you can’t make semi-accurate blanket statements about a group, they aren’t an actionable demographic.
It’s Corporate Crack, An Intervention is Called for
Every industry, every brand, obsesses about Millennials. A quick search on Buzzsumo shows 105,732 posts on “Millennials”. Well, 105,733 now.
Millennials are in many different places along their life paths. They have different needs. They have different wants.
You cannot treat them as a single, cohesive unit because they are not a single, cohesive unit. Try, and you doom yourself to failure.
Millennials do not exist as a useful demographic. Get over it.
My dinner party for Millennials cost me about $100. It had no hope of success. At least, everybody got a good meal out of it.
How much is your Marketing to Millennials costing you?
What are you getting out of it?
Here's what to do the next time someone shows up with a brilliant Millennial marketing strategy.
They will suggest “A Paradigm Shift to Effectively Engage Millennials ”
Ask them, “Which Millennials are we talking about?”
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