Why Targeting Millennials is a bad idea (and what you should do instead)

Why Targeting Millennials is a bad idea (and what you should do instead)

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By: 321

June 2, 2017

Spoiler alert: I’m a “millennial”, or so they tell me. I don’t feel like a millennial; yeah, I have a smartphone, but so does Lou Dobbs. I go online to check news on the latest Star Trek project, but so does Rick Berman.
I’ve worked in the advertising industry for six years now, and in that time I’ve had account executives, media planners and art directors tell me how we should market to millennials. Telling me how we should market to millennials. Sigh.
While age can be a helpful indicator for a person’s life stage or milestones they may be nearing, it’s hardly the full story. I’ve met 25-year-old entrepreneurs who have successfully launched half a dozen businesses. I’ve also met 40-year-olds whose retirement plans involve a lot of lottery tickets. In other words, age tells you surprisingly little about a person, so why would you allow it to dictate your marketing plan?
If there’s one piece of advice I would give to any brand or any marketing professional over the age of 30 in regards to marketing to millennials, it would be: Don’t. 

What You Should Be Doing Instead
Two things have happened within our society over the course of a decade of internet use:

  1. The internet has given us the ability to connect with others in ways we never imagined possible. Discovering people with whom you share a niche hobby or interest no longer has to happen by accident. No longer constrained by geographical limitations, we’ve been able to form virtual communities comprised of people from diverse backgrounds who all share a mutual passion.
  2. As these communities grew and their shared knowledge compounded, it’s created an endless catalogue of information on any given topic — making it possible for the average person to develop extensive knowledge on any given topic.

With these two factors in mind, rather than marketing toward people based solely on age, you should target people based on their passions. After all, it’s a person’s passions that shape the lens through which they view the world — and themselves. By putting an age gate on your brand, you’re limiting yourself from the potential audience you could be reaching.
I’m not saying demographic information is unimportant, I’m simply saying that it isn’t an accurate means to understand who it is you’re targeting, much less how to relate to them, engage with them and earn their trust. 
If you don’t believe me, then sit down with a pen and two blank sheets of paper. Then, in 60 seconds try describing yourself in the third person using only demographic information (your age, your location, etc.). Use no personal trivia, and only focus on what makes you valuable as a consumer. 
On the second page do the same exercise, this time describing yourself in the third person using your interests and hobbies, your passions, your dreams, your travels and any personal information that you’d like.
Finally, compare the pages and answer honestly these three questions:

  1. Which version of you would you like to have a conversation with? 
  2. Who would you like to hang out with more? 
  3. Who would you trust more? 

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