Headspace: Going beyond the millennial stereotype
by Tenielle Maris. As the most-researched and analysed target audience in history, millennials are considered one of the most-influential audiences of all times. This group of 18-35 year olds is described as more optimistic, tech-savvy, experience-centric, socially driven, collaborative, ambitious and creative than their Gen X predecessors and — something that brands simply can’t seem get enough of — they believe in making a difference.
Jumping on the bandwagon
These are just some of the leading need-states that are associated with millennials all over world, and brands are jumping on the bandwagon to connect with these people in smarter and more-creative ways than the next.
The problem with this line of thinking is that we are making the assumption that this enormous and diverse group of people, spanning the globe, all have the same behavioural traits in common: whether we are talking to a 21-year-old student or a 34-year-old single mother, they both want the same thing, right?
For marketers and advertisers, this very notion goes against everything we have learned about connecting with people: that placing people in predefined, generational boxes is a recipe for cookie-cutter messaging that fails to connect with audiences on a deeper level. Not only are we disregarding life-stages and sub-cultures but it also means that we’re presuming that the 18-year-old millennial’s need-states will not evolve in any way within a 20-year timeframe. Sounds crazy, no?
This is something that has been described as the “Millennial Trap” (Ipsos Marketing, U.S, 2016) which essentially calls out that marketing to the ‘millennial’ is downright lazy. Why lazy, you may ask? For starters, it fails to recognise the type of millennial individuals you want to target, and then it ultimately means shoehorning a variety of things to make your brand ‘relevant’ to a gigantic base of people. People with not a lot in common.
What you end up with is a campaign that ticks a few of the generic millennial boxes but lacks the sense of purpose needed to differentiate your brand from the next. This sense of purpose — not the cool, collaborative things your brand did on Snapchat — is what engenders a long-term connection with a brand.
SME South Africa has pinpointed that the growth of the millennial customer segment, as well technological developments, will be among the biggest contributors to the changing consumer market in the country. As such a strong influence in consumer spending power, the millennial segment of consumers is hard for brands to ignore.
Getting it right
In an effort to connect with female millennials last year, Nike produced an eight-episode series that was featured on YouTube to inspire female fans to exercise. It wasn’t just the funny, branded content that connected with Nike’s audience; rather it was an authentic representation of a deep consumer insight: that each woman experiences their own personal and emotional fitness journey.
Marketers and advertisers need to remember that millennials are individuals and not just a demographic. In order to truly connect with them, beyond the obvious things we have come to associate with the stereotype, we need to dig deep to uncover the types of insights that make a brand unequivocally relevant in these individual’s lives.
Tenielle Maris is strategic director at TTL agency, 34°, in Johannesburg. Beginning her career in branding and communications, she has spent the last decade in the marketing industry where she has worked upon big brands spanning the African continent. Having found her passion in understanding what drives human beings to connect with particular brands, her time is spent getting up close and personal with the people whom brands are trying to connect with. Tenielle contributes the monthly “Headspace” column, which unpacks anything and everything that helps marketers and advertisers understand why people connect with brands, to MarkLives.com.