Stop Marketing to Millennials

By Kristin Sundin Brandt, CFMP

If you have attended any marketing-related conferences, read any marketing-related publications or otherwise considered marketing or advertising a product, service or organization, you know that you are supposed to be marketing to millennials.

But before you plan a full-blown assault, I’d like to make a suggestion…don’t.

Do not start your next marketing plan, or meeting, with the words “we are going to connect with millennials.” Because you cannot do it. Or, to be more specific, you cannot effectively market to any generation or other broadly defined group of people (women, moms, dads, etc).

I know what you are thinking. Millennials, those currently aged 18 to 35, are the largest generation since the Baby Boomers! We must take advantage of this opportunity!

And you are correct. But if you are targeting any group of people by only one criteria, in this case generation, you are guaranteed not to succeed.

Consider for a moment, your life and where you were between the ages of 18 and 35. Personally, in that age range I went from being a freshman in college without a car or more than $100 in my checking account, to a working mom with two children, husband, and mortgage.

Experts trying to differentiate millennials from other generations often end up presenting differentiators that are too vague to be meaningful. Take for example this data pulled from an AdWeek and Café Media infographic regarding millennial women:

  • 73% say their hairstyle and makeup are expressions of their personality
  • 87% say they aren’t afraid to chart a different course than their friends
  • 84% get excited when something is new and different

Are these really statistics? Because it feels like we are just making up stuff now.

It’s also easy to infer from this graphic that I, as a Gen X mom, am a member of the collective—a mom-jean wearing woman with a generic haircut, afraid to chart my own course or speak my own mind.

Identifying target audiences as part of a marketing plan is essential to your success—but we need to be more specific than millennials, or women, or moms, or even millennial moms. We need to consider other factors—geographic (where do they live), psychographic (their interests, attitudes, opinions), and demographic (what is their gender, income and, yes, age).

And that’s the point. You can (and should) introduce products, services and technologies for, and marketed to, millennials. You just need to segment to more than their generation, because I can promise you that your customers and prospects think of themselves as more than just millennials.

Don’t believe me? Go ask a millennial.

Kristin Sundin Brandt, CFMP, is the president of Sundin Associates Inc., Natick, Mass., an agency specializing in financial services companies.