Guest Post by Jill Tooley
Marketers spend millions of dollars each year in an attempt to seize Millennials’ attention. Sometimes that marketing works, and other times it fails fast. So, why is it so hard to market products and services to this generation? It may have something to do with the fact that Millennials are impossible to pigeonhole.
The Millennial generation encompasses a surprisingly broad age range. Depending on the article or research you read, anyone born between 1978 and the early 2000s may belong in this category (or, at least overlap somewhere). I’ve seen research arguing for a number of ranges, including 1980-1995, 1980-2000, 1981-1999, and even 1978-1999.
To put these ranges into perspective as of today: A 30-year-old would have been born in 1982, when only the super elite had access to computers and consumers received the majority of their advertisements from traditional means, like television, radio, or newspapers. A 12-year-old would have been born in 2000, when technology and the Internet boomed and grade-school kids started asking for personal computers and cell phones as Christmas presents.
You can see the drastic difference between two of the age groups contained within the Millennial generation. How could a 12-year-old’s interests align with a 30-year-old’s, when there’s little in common on the surface? Both would have experienced radically different surroundings and both would hold diverse opinions about the world around them.
A Conflicted Generation
Perhaps this wide age gap is why I find myself reading so many conflicting articles about Millennials on a weekly basis. Some studies claim to reflect that Millennials are obsessed with technology, but others claim that we’re sick of it. Some articles say we’re selfish and lazy, while others convey our dedication to working and giving back to good causes.
Why are these studies so convoluted?
Marketers are missing the big picture. They’re surveying a small number of Millennials for data and assuming that we all think alike. We’re not as easy to peg as previous generations, because we’ve all grown up in radically different environments. The world is changing – fast – and sampling a couple thousand of us isn’t good enough. There are 80 million of us out there, and counting.
Even I’m confused about the Millennial generation, and I’m technically a member. I was born in 1983, which apparently makes me a Millennial, just like someone born in the year 2000. But I don’t feel like I belong there.
Who am I, and where do I fit in?
If there’s one thing harder than marketing to a generation you don’t fully understand, it’s marketing to a generation that doesn’t understand where they belong. I see this as a huge problem, not only for marketers but also for those of us who are facing possible existential crises.
The bigger question is, though, how can marketers pinpoint what Millennials want if we’re not even sure what we want? How is it possible to target an age group with such diverse life experiences, tastes, and preferences?
I won’t say the answer is simple, because it’s not. In fact, I’m afraid there will never be a straightforward answer. But regardless of the arguably vast differences between members of the Millennial generation, we do have a few things in common.
Understanding a Generation
First of all, we don’t want to be scoffed at, criticized, or looked down upon because of the stigma attached to Millennials. We’re tired of hearing about our supposed indifference to the world around us. I assure you, not all of us are ungrateful slobs who coast by and expect opportunities handed to us on silver platters. Anyone who says differently is wrong.
Also, in regard to marketing, we want to follow innovative brands that know what we want before we even know we want it. We want to connect with peers who care about the same topics. We want to have creative input on trends that are supposedly geared toward us in the first place. We want to work our butts off for forward-thinking companies that will grow with us instead of leaving us in the dust of a stiff, corporate world.
But most importantly, we want marketers to listen to our ideas, and we want to see them in action. Is that too much to ask for? Maybe. However, I’m going to go bold here and ask for it anyway.
What Millennials Want From Marketers
In short, if you want to market to the broad spectrum of Millennials, then start by giving us the benefit of the doubt. Thoroughly research your market before spending millions on “hip” ad campaigns. Instead of blindly following random studies that sample a small number of us, try coming directly to us via crowdsourcing or social media. We want to be heard, so we’ll do some legwork for you to spread the message.
By the way, Millennials hold over a trillion dollars in spending power, which is nothing to sneeze at. If you want any portion of that, then you need to take action now. Don’t get caught up in the generational buzz and assume we’re a lost cause! Whether marketers like it or not, we’re a major part of the customer base, and we’re not going anywhere.
What do you think Millennials want? Do you agree that this generation’s age span may be too broad to derive relevant marketing data? Any more generational insights to add?
Jill Tooley is a content nut who plays with words and manages posts at the Quality Logo Products Blog.