Differentiating between Millennials

Differentiating between millennials: how to effectively target Generation Y


In the last ten years or so, consumer habits have been upturned by a generation of smartphone using, trend following, socially engaged people, aka millennials or Generation Y. Marketing to millennials is something a huge number of brands have not only considered but are prioritising when it comes to their digital marketing strategies. Competition for their attention is fierce, but many brands are still failing to hit the mark.

Here, we delve into why, and how you can make sure that you’re effectively targeting Generation Y.

So what are they doing wrong?

Despite many marketers’ desperate efforts to grab and retain the attention of this hyper-valuable demographic, most of them are making one key mistake. They see the millennial as one identity, bundling this generation into a single group. What they fail to remember is the fact that the millennial generation actually spans for decades. If you want to get technical, then a millennial is anyone who was born roughly between 1980-2002. This means that they can be anywhere from the age of 12 to 35 — a huge range of difference, I’m sure you’ll agree.

However many marketers still take a one size fits all approach, which misses out on key differences between these age groups in terms of their values, upbringing, and what stage they might be in their lives.

The answer to this problem is simple. Just like with any other marketing efforts, you have to be certain on the specific demographic you’re looking to target. Here, that means deciding on which specific millennial group you want to focus on. Understanding what different types of millennial there are, and researching what makes them tick is essential for successful targeting.

What are the different types of millennial?

A quick search on Google will leave you inundated with articles telling you all about the different types of millennials. Job done right? Well if you take a quick read, you’ll find that most of the information they give isn’t actually helpful. Many create arbitrary millennial personas such as the travel enthusiast or the go-getter, rather than identifying key groups based on actual research. Of course, there are some stereotypical traits of the generation as a whole, but there are also some huge demographical differences between different subgroups. It’s important to remember that content which engages a 30-year-old probably won’t have the same effect on someone who is ten years younger. Broadly speaking though, you can put millennials into three different economic and social categories.

The young millennial
These are the young pups of the generation. They are still in education, are going through puberty and have little responsibility. Aged between 12-18, they will most likely not have an annual income and are a long way off from being the decision maker of their home. They have, however, one significant feature which differs them from all other millennial groups. They have grown up alongside technology, with smartphones and wifi being the norm for them. As a result, they are engaged with technology on a level that is unprecedented by any other generations before them. They are very active on social media and use it to not only connect with people but to facilitate their everyday lives. For them imagery and video are king, favouring Instagram and Youtube as their go-to social channels over Facebook.

The mainstream millennial
This is the group that most marketers refer to when talking about millennials in general: the twenty-somethings. They are the ones who are in the limelight. Why? They are the influencers, the trendsetters, and the ones that the brands want to target. Unlike the young millennials, they didn’t grow up with smartphones (the first iPhone was introduced in 2007) nor did they have instant internet access from birth. The foundations of the tech we now know and love were there, with dial-up (anyone else remember the agony of that?) and brick-sized Nokia’s being the height of sophistication in their childhoods. However, they saw the evolution of these technologies, saw the potential they could have, and were the first to act upon it.

The older millennial
These are what we call the forgotten millennials. They don’t quite fit into generation X (those born between 1961 and 1981), but they share a lot of the same qualities in terms of their tech-savviness. Unlike the mainstream millennials which may be unsettled, they will most likely have established careers, families and in some cases own property. They are socially and politically aware and make investments for their future, something which many sources have cited as completely absent in millennials. Whilst they may not follow every trend on Twitter, they are engaged with social media, leaning more towards platforms such as Facebook. It’s likely that they’ll remember a time without internet, let alone smartphones, which makes their relationship with them far less reliant than the other types of millennial.

So how can I engage with Generation Y?

Before you start any campaign, you need to define your audience. This doesn’t mean saying, “I want to target millennials” and leaving it at that. It means doing some serious digging to find out which types of millennials engage with your product and understanding why that is. For example, what does your product offer specific demographics? What is it about their traits which match, or don’t match your brand? You may find after this research, that actually when it comes down to it, you should actually be marketing to Generation X.

The next stepping stone may seem obvious, but it’s really important to look at what language and content you are using to target them with. It’s highly unlikely that the same content used to engage with mainstream millennials will work to the same extent with younger and older millennials. For example, if you are targeting older millennials, then it may be worth considering long-form content which gets across the message in an aspirational and detailed format. However, if you are targeting younger and mainstream millennials then it may be worth looking at video and blog content, as they’ll more than likely consume it on a phone.

It’s no surprise that social media will be key to the success of any millennial-targeted campaign, regardless of which type you’re aiming to target. Social allows you to see how millennials are engaging with your brand, can serve as great way to connect with them, and can also be used to understand where your specific millennial subgroup consume content online.

It’s easy to assume that millennials are the most active on social across all platforms, but that isn’t the case. According to a study by Social Media Today, Facebook is preferred by generation X and baby boomers more than millennials, with Generation X also being more likely to follow a brand online. Indeed, there are also variations within the millennial sub-groups, with Business Insider reporting that younger millennials engage more with Snapchat and Instagram than Facebook. So take the time to find out which platform your specific millennial audience engages with the most before setting your campaign into action.

Thinking about putting together a campaign to target millennials? Let us help you make sure it works.

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