Millennial Schmillennial – the pitfalls of lazy marketing jargon

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, if you are consuming content online hardly a day goes by without someone somewhere dropping the “M” word.


“How millennial are you?”; “The Millennials Are Coming”; “10 Surprising Habits of Millennial Art Collectors”; and “3 Insights To Help Your Millennial Marketing Strategy Succeed”; are typical headlines that somehow find their way into everything.

Millennials are a hot topic for good reason. The estimated buying power of Millennials is around $1.3 trillion in the US and $10 trillion globally.

In the not-too-distant future, they will become the largest generation with the greatest combined purchasing power in human history.

It’s no wonder that brands are falling all over themselves, blinded by the dollar signs in their eyes, to try and figure out this audience.

This has led to the publication of countless pieces of content that offer helpful advice and endless Dos & Don’ts lists of what to do when trying to communicate with a Millennial audience.

It is for this reason that we need to step back and consider a few facts that everyone seems to be overlooking when it comes to Millennials.

The Facts

The most widely accepted definition of Millennials are people born from 1980 – 2000.

That’s twenty years’ worth of people! Numbers-wise, we’re talking about 2.5 billion people here, roughly a third of the world’s population.

The oldest Millennials are 35 and the youngest are 15. That is a significant age gap. Making any assumptions about what Millennials are like for the purposes of marketing effectively to this group almost seems doomed to fail.

Marketers, and especially those working in social, need to shatter their thinking. Targeting “Millennials” is as helpful as walking into a warehouse full of footwear and, when asked by a store attendant what you’re looking for, replying with, “shoes”.

Sure, there might be some common characteristics that Millennials share, but if you apply any kind of scrutiny to those characteristics, you’ll probably find we all share them.

“Be authentic” is advice that is commonly given to marketers when targeting Millennials. Is that really a tactic that only Millennials appreciate?

Because I for one don’t know of anyone who has ever said, “I really love the way this brand/person/company speaks to me like I’m a mindless clone!”

“Millennials prefer peer reviews and recommendations than branded messages,” is another gem. Surely this is basic human nature we are talking about here?

The only difference is that previous generations grew up without the abundant access to information that Millennials have, but you’d have to be very naïve to trust branded messages over a recommendation from a good mate.

Data does not lie

I would argue that there is nothing more detrimental to marketing efforts than catch-all generational terms that attempt to describe everything and in turn do the exact opposite.

The minute you fall into the trap of trying to sell a product or an idea to a group as vast as Millennials, you’re on a slippery slope.

The abundant access we have to social data means that we should be throwing meaningless terms like Millennials out the window.

Narrow your focus. Map out exactly who you are targeting: where they live; how old they are; what they earn; where they go on holiday; which brands they champion; what professions they are in; what devices they use; what TV shows they watch; what music they listen to; what social media platforms they are active on.

The social listening tools that are readily available for us to use mean we no longer have to rely on shoddy guesswork and broad generalisations about the audiences we are targeting.

The devil is in the data and the detail, and until advertisers and marketers delve into that, they risk huge amounts of potential wastage on campaigns that fail to resonate with their target audiences.

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