It is now widely accepted that the millennial consumer has become a prize customer for marketers. This makes obvious sense, given that millennials represent a large consumer segment and have significant buying power. In a sense, the millennial consumer has evolved in terms of how marketers view them. As the generation has aged, the segment has grown and become more worthwhile for marketers’ attention.
So, naturally, we have read many articles about what makes millennials different in the marketplace than previous generations and how to effectively market to them as a result. We see articles published that suggest that there are “keys to unlock” to understand the Millennial consumer, that the Millennial consumer is a “puzzle to be solved,” or other such metaphors essentially promising that there is something about millennials that will easily provide what a marketer will need to effectively market to them.
Unfortunately, these articles – and the information they share – rarely deliver on that promise. Instead they typically tell marketers what they already know about this generation – things such as how much they like technology, so marketers better give it to them in their marketing. There is rarely any meaningful depth of understanding of millennials as consumers; information that marketers can actually use.
When considering the millennial consumer, please know this: They are not all the same. Generational marketing, in a basic sense, is for convenience. It is human nature to “categorize” people so we can more easily think of them in certain ways. Most obviously, we do this when we consider various demographic considerations. We have affluent vs. non-affluent, male vs. female, etc. The problem with categorizing millennial consumers in this way – or any generation really – is that is dangerous for marketers.
While a generation shares the same societal changes as they grow up and underlying values as a result, that does not necessarily mean that someone in their early 20s and someone in their low-to-mid 30s (the widest ends of the millennial generation age spectrum) will respond similarly to marketing messages. We must consider their life stage within the generation to better understand millennial consumers, much like we have needed to do with previous generations. Even further, beyond life stage, we also must consider the product or service category that the marketer is selling. That can also make a difference.
Not only is the millennial consumer evolving as he/she ages and becomes even more powerful from a buying perspective in the marketplace. Marketers are also evolving along with this generation in terms of our understanding of them as consumers and as shoppers. I would advise you to be careful in accepting the “quick fixes” with millennial marketing. Those promises typically do not deliver results. Instead I suggest you rely on more insightful research to become effective millennial marketers.