Consumer Culture
February 10, 2017
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Strategic Targeting: Why Marketing to Millennials is All Wrong

Want to earn loyal brand converts and pump up your margins in the process? Stop targeting Millennials (or any other generational group). Seriously. Find out why profiling consumers based on things like behavior, attitudes and needs—instead of demographics—can make a greater impact on your bottom line.

We all know that Millennials are important to the economy and highly influential to most brands. In fact, it seems like there are new articles written every day about their growing spending power, their food and beverage habits, how to hook them on social media, etc. Regardless of the details, the message is always pretty much the same: target Millennials… or miss out on a giant opportunity to grow your business.

Well, here’s another article about marketing to Millennials. But I’m not here to tell you why you should target Millennials. I’m here to tell you why you shouldn’t.

Pew Research Center defines “Millennials” as people ages 18-34 in 2015. It’s an age classification. Nothing more. Nothing less. And within that broad definition lies an equally broad range of socioeconomic circumstances, mindsets, life stages, educational levels and purchasing behaviors. To say that this entire group acts, thinks and feels as one just doesn’t make sense.

Think about it. If you go by demographics alone, a single, 18-year-old male heading to college in the fall is lumped into the same target as a married, 34-year-old female juggling two kids, a mortgage and a demanding career. Targeting these two individuals with the same message won’t get you very far. Yet, that’s often what happens.

And when it does… you fail to maximize your opportunity to win over loyal consumers and their wallets.

To be clear, demographics can be a piece of the targeting puzzle—but not the only piece. If you want to create a strategic target that can more effectively convert consumers to your brand, create brand loyalty and gain premium margins, it’s essential to also consider things like the consumer’s needs (both rational and emotional), attitudes, behaviors, values and current brand usage.

Netflix is a great example of a company that clearly knows a thing or two about consumer targeting on a more “personal” level. “Here’s a shocker for you there are actually 19-year-old guys who watch ‘Dance Moms’ and there are 73-year-old women who are watching ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Avengers’,” said Todd Yellin, Netflix’s VP of Product Innovation, at South by Southwest (SXSW) in 2015. “What we’ve learned over time is: it’s not who they are in a superficial sense—like gender, age, even geography. It’s not even what they tell you. It’s what they do.”

Because no brand or product can be all things to all Millennials (or any other generational group), effective consumer targeting is (and always has been) about making choices—smart, strategic choices that your brand can capitalize on.

So, if Millennials are a core target for your brand… work to look beyond the demographics. Dig deeper. Who is it that you’re really trying to target? The DIY enthusiast balancing work and kids? The beginner cook who likes to experiment with ingredients using Pinterest as their guide? Or possibly the entertainer who is on three fantasy football teams? Build a strategic target consumer profile and get to the bottom of why this target is a match for your unique offering. Be specific and you’ll be effective.

Want to learn more about strategic consumer targeting, building a target consumer profile or enhancing your brand’s strategy? I’d love to talk more—connect with me on LinkedIn or leave a comment below.


Taylor Exline is a Project Director at Seed Strategy where she utilizes her insatiable curiosity to create winning brand strategy and innovation.

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