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Breaking down the millennial monolith

Millennials make up 25 percent of the US population alone—that's over 83 million individuals. To reach this huge and valuable group, we've got to get to know them better.

“All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.” – Alexandre Dumas

Marketers have become enamored of, fearful of, and obsessed with millennials. While targeting such a large and valuable swath of the consumer population is, without question, the correct path from a business perspective, the frequency and consistency with which articles about millennials promote some gross generalization about their behaviors, preferences, or attitudes is incredible.

Generalizations about any segment can be dangerous and misleading. When considering millennials, the fatal flaw occurs when applying broad generalizations to a group representing so significant a portion of the US population: Millennials account for 25 percent, or more than 83 million people. Never should so many individuals be considered as one homogenous group.

Logically, consumer behavior, including millennial behavior, is far more nuanced. There are many more differentiating characteristics to consider, beyond simply age range. Studying these various aspects of the millennial segment provides insight into those valuable nuances:

Demographics
The most basic way to explore a segment is by identifying key demographic differences. For millennials, visible differences in attitudes and behaviors may be based on:

– Income/Net Worth/Affluence
– Education
– Geography
– Ethnicity

Attitudes
Once demographic distinctions are established, it’s important to reveal differences in thinking. Learning how individuals within a segment form their own opinions and expectations is a critical piece of the puzzle for marketers. Because success is heavily predicated on the ability to meet or exceed those personal expectations.

Behaviors
Lastly, and most importantly, is understanding how individuals within a sub-segment behave. How they interact with the marketplace and make decisions about brands is the ultimate determinant of value and engagement. For marketers, truly succeeding with millennials as a whole requires the ability to explore, identify, and respond to unique behaviors.

These are areas through which to seek discriminating characteristics that can further refine our knowledge of and ability to effectively engage groups and individuals within this valuable segment.

The success of these efforts requires that we apply our deeper understanding to address critical areas of brand performance, as designated by the Interbrand Brand Strength dimensions. In order to reach distinct groups of individuals within the millennial segment, we must, as marketers, succeed in creating a brand experience that is:

Authentic – The extent to which the brand is credible and genuine, with a brand experience that aligns with the brand’s proposition to its customers.

Relevant – How well a brand is perceived as delivering a relevant experience and meeting real needs and desires.

Differentiated – The distinctiveness of the brand proposition, experience, and creative expression, compared to the marketplace.

Consistent – The ability of a brand to deliver a seamless and high quality experience across all channels and touchpoints.

Present – The prominence of the brand both inside and outside of its category, as well as across important channels and touchpoints.

Engaging – The extent to which the brand inspires dialogue, emotional affinity, and long term relationships.

Growing your brand within the millennial market requires understanding—not assumptions—coupled with the ability to successfully act on those well-honed insights.

Contributors

Senior Principal, Analytics