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Millennials as a mindset: Are demographics still relevant to brands?

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Love it or hate it, the term ‘millennials’ is here to stay - for a while at least. But how much do you know about millennial marketing - and what’s the best way to approach it?

According to the widely accepted definition, there are around 13.8 million millennials across the UK – a significant audience for marketers to target. Born between 1980 and 1994, they’re a generation that is lazy and unproductive, and less religious and more ethically and racially diverse than other age-groups, who believe that a decent work/life balance is more important than career progression.

These are, of course, sweeping generalisations. Worth $56.3bn, millennial Mark Zuckerberg isn’t lazy and unproductive. An impressive 8.7% of the millennial-headed households in Arlington, Virginia, earn over $350,000 per year, compared with a median salary of $38,836 among peers their age.

It’s clear not all millennials are the same, then. What if the characteristics that defined a ‘millenial’ weren’t down to age at all?

We believe brands must begin marketing to the millennial mindset - not the millennial demographic. The term may well have begun as a reference to a particular age group, but it’s now best used to define a set of ideals, behaviours and aspirations that are shared by those of all ages.

Millennial-inspired trends

The key characteristics of millennials are their technological reliance and brilliance, and their youthful outlook.

While younger generations are often seen as the most technologically astute, it’s not just millennials that can adopt to new technologies. Older generations have seen the arrival of email and the internet, early e-commerce, the first ever iPhone - technologically, they’ve seen as many marketplace changes as their younger counterparts.

It’s not just those born in the 80s and 90s that use social media either. We’re now seeing one in four of those aged over 65 using social media, with the number of ‘Instagrans’ on the rise. And when it comes to the media channels that consumers use, those defined as millennials by their age aren’t the only ones veering away from the traditional. A 2016 report from L.E.K. Consulting showed that, as we know, millennials have a preference for non-traditional media channels. However, it also showed that such channels are rapidly increasing in popularity amongst older generations too. Younger millennials are influencing older ones.

This all points to one certainty - that instead of defining an age group, “millennial” should be used to define any consumer - of any age - who is behaving and thinking in ways inspired by millennial consumer trends.

Psychographics vs. demographics

For years, demographics have been a go-to market segmentation tool, but times are changing. It’s clear that we should be looking at psychographics rather than demographics. For marketers, it may make more sense to tap into the zeitgeist rather than a specific age group - particularly with the younger generation’s influence spreading so wide.

Consider the way “always-on” technology – which promotes experience-first thinking – has cross-generational appeal. Fast food chains have introduced touchscreen ordering technology in response, while craft beer brands like Blue Moon have injected a light, retro feel to their comms to appeal to a broad range of ‘millennial’ customers. With health-consciousness a commonly cited millennial trait, US convenience store chain 7-11 recently retargeted their branding from offering smokes, sugar and greasy food for truck drivers, to focus more on providing healthy snacks and fresh food.

These rebrands focus not on a specific age group, but on lifestyle choices that are made not only by young millennials, but increasingly by other generations too. According to a recent MCA Insight survey, 47% of millennials have switched to a healthier diet over the last 12 months, along with 35% of those aged 35-54, and 23% of those aged 55+.

Redefining millennials

So what is a millennial?

It’s not a demographic. It’s not an age group. It’s a mindset. Millennial marketing means targeting aspirations, beliefs, behaviours and attitudes - not numbers on a birth certificate. Millennial mindsets aren’t just found in the younger generations. Focus marketing efforts on disposition instead of digits, and your brand strategy will likely have a wider reach as a result.


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