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It's time to stop treating millennials as a single target segment

Every day we hear about the importance of the millennial market, but in actuality there is a dividing line between 'old' and 'young' millennials. Any time we try to speak to millennials as a whole, we are missing half of them.

Millennials are understood to be the generation born between 1981 to 1996, give or take a few years and your source of the data. This means that they range in age between 37 and 22, delineating an enormous chunk of the current market. We must ask ourselves though, whether we can or should speak to them in the same way.

Regardless of their being lumped together into a single group, does it ever make sense to speak to a 37-year-old and a 22-year-old in the same way? We would argue very strongly that it doesn’t. Not only are these people in very different life stages, but the world has moved into a state of accelerated change, meaning the gap is widening more than ever before.

Older millennials remember their first cell phones, the first time they logged on to the Internet, or the pain of sending a fax. Younger millennials never knew a time without the internet and can’t imagine what life would be like if one were not ‘connected’. Add to this the differences in pop culture: Ask a young millennial what a Tamagotchi is, and they’ll look at you with total incomprehension, ask the same of an old millennial and they’ll think back wistfully.

Their contexts are entirely different.

Then consider their financial lives and spending habits. Older millennials are at this point working on getting onto the property ladder, if they haven’t already. They’re looking at bonds and long-term debt, school fees and planning for a future retirement (if it’s ever possible). Younger millennials are potentially staying at home longer, meaning they have more disposable income to spend on consumer goods, or what they really enjoy: Experiences. Whereas older millennials might still see the accumulation of material goods as a signifier of success, younger millennials are challenging this and looking to the collection of experiences (which of course can be shared on social media) as a way to live a ‘good’ life.

To highlight these differences, we created the following video, which shows undeniably just how different these two groups of people are, and how speaking to them as a single group is truly a waste of time.

What does this mean for brands?

It means, of course, that we can no longer define a single strategy to speak to the entire millennial group. If we do so, we lose half of them immediately – whether we aim at the younger or the older millennial. It means that as brand custodians, we need to listen more and be very clear about who want to speak to and what we want to say to them, for the maximum amount of output.