Adnalysis: Millennials not a target market but a generation
by Bogosi Motshegwa (@Thinkerneur) “We are targeting millennials,” said every company and ad agency. But how do you target an entire generation? In doing so, you have already lost the essence of critical nuances that could have made your messaging or branding-building efforts so much richer, textured and layered with substance.
The oh-so infamous millennials. It’s interesting how, irrespective of the category, industry, products and or services, the target segment is always “millennials”. How is it possible, though? Don’t you wonder who or what these millennials are?
Can’t even agree on when they were born
First of all, there isn’t a concise consensus on when millennials were born; different research agencies or organisations have given different time frames for their emergence or existence. According to Tech Target, there are four different time frames in which millennials were born (1977–1994, 1976–1990, 1978–1998 and 1980–2000). Who are these people if we can’t even decide on when they were born? And does it even matter?
It’s is not rocket science that people in each generation tend to think similar or share similar values, as they tend to be influenced and informed by similar external forces of that time, and sometimes it’s a combination of those lingering from the previous generation. For example, Generation X have had their own challenges, and the so-called Millennials may have faced similar challenges but within the mix and context of digital and the internet, thereby resulting in a unique expression. Behavioural patterns may carry similar principles yet vary in nuances.
Millennialism is a mindset
Did you know that Mark Zuckerberg and Julius Malema are millennials? When looking at how millennials are described from a psychographic point-of-view, you start to realise that millennialism may be a state of mind that transcends time. Steve Jobs could easily be a millennial. He was rebellious and he couldn’t really work with anyone; instead of changing jobs like most millennials, he created new companies.
If millennialism is a mindset, I find that corporate South Africa has not fully dug deeper and learned this generation thoroughly. There is so much that is misunderstood about this generation.
American millennials are not the same as South African millennials
You know what they say: context is everything. And this is true for psychographic descriptions of any audience, when doing an archetype or customer profiling. While every company looks to target millennials in South Africa, I am yet to come across a comprehensive research study of millennials in this country. We use global stats with global skew, global percentages and global everything.
We always tend to infer whatever the American studies say. As we know, our context is different. While digital and the internet have made it seem like our experiences are the same, we are different people all together, even if we are born during the same era.
The truth about millennials
Most research studies or findings are generic and fail to provide texture and substance. They speak about millennials from a global point of view, and they fail to contextualise realities of this country.
Frankly, millennials are getting old and are faced with problems of, as their kids say, “adulting”. As a so-called millennial myself, I’m starting to have different and challenging responsibilities that paint a different picture for my reality. Having a baby and trying to raise and support a young family while still supporting my parents and extended family, aka black tax. Trying to establish myself as a reputable professional in the advertising industry, wanting to study further and still have a life in the midst of that?
I doubt that the industry has all of the above as part of ‘who this South African millennial is’. I’m not an American millennial and ,while I can somewhat relate to this global template of what it means to be a millennial, my realities force me to make decisions that are not just unique to me but relevant to my context. On top of that, I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to secure my son’s future while trying currently to provide a comfortable life. That’s a lot of pressure.
Millennials are under pressure and nobody has really accounted for all the factors that do so. It’s a struggle to provide efficiently for others and myself and save for the future. When will I be able to afford a house?
While we do follow trends and are seen in cool places, we are on our unique paths to defining our individual identities and success (this is actually a dope line to use as part of a strategy).
Implications for brands
The newer and much-fresher generation is the Z Generation. They are young, full of zest and are having a fun ride, because their millennial brothers and sisters are picking up after them. Brands should now focus on this segment.
For brands to resonate or be relevant amongst millennials, they have to take into account the above-mentioned and use it to create meaningful connections. Millennials are not a single target market or segment. You need to dig deeper. You need to break this generation into smaller segments; you need to get personal, get human, and not see us described in global themes.
Get to know us South African millennials. We are people, first and foremost. But who are we?
Bogosi Motshegwa (@Thinkerneur) truly believes that advertising can really change the world. Every single day he tries to prove this. He shares his thoughts on the industry and sometimes has unconventional views. Bogosi is the co-founder of Melanoid Éclat (for finding black entrepreneurs), a committee member of AMASA, an Advisory Council member and guest speaker at Vega, and also does speaker management at TEDxJohannesburg. He is currently a strategic planner at Net#work BBDO. He contributes the monthly column, “Adnalysis”, which analyses adland from a strategist’s point of view, to MarkLives.com.