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Are Marketers Overhyping Millennials' Role in the Future Economy?

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Millennials are the hottest topic of the moment, especially when it comes to marketers, who never seem to tire of millennial talk. They are slicing and dicing everything related to this generation -- from what they like and what they don’t, to their growth in the workplace and their future impact on the economy. In short, everything that will help them attract this lucrative group. But being obsessed with capturing the millennial mind share, are today’s marketers turning a blind eye to more obvious truths of generational marketing? Let’s take a closer look at where marketers may be going wrong while targeting Gen Y.

Ignore other age groups at your own risk

It makes no sense for any brand to focus on only one generation, unless it sells products meant solely for that particular age group. For instance, a brand selling walking sticks will probably do ok if they choose to target only the elderly -- although, it’s safe to assume that many of their purchases are made by their boomer offspring! But, let’s say, you sell eco-friendly products. The millennials’ much-known proclivity towards sustainability issues and positive brand images may have you believing they are your prospective buyers. And, while a recent study found that 63 percent of millennials prefer eco-friendly product packaging, more than half of both Gen-Xers and baby boomers have the same preference. You can imagine the cost of targeting only millennials and ignoring the rest.

Related: Everything You Know About Millennials Is Wrong

The biggest problem in targeting only millennials is you risk alienating buyers who don’t fall within that age bracket. And let’s not forget, as your millennial clientele age, they will be more attracted to brands that serve older generations, which you have missed the boat on because you failed to catch their eye as they were growing up.   

Smart targeting or sweeping generalization?

While millennials are a huge generation, much like the boomers, there may be a bit too much emphasis on them as a whole and not enough sub-context around the vast difference between older millennials and younger millennials. The same holds true when discussing gender roles. Most of the brand messages and ads targeting millennial consumers are male-centric, overlooking the Gen-Y women—an emerging financial force. 

Therefore, if a brand targets millennials, a marketer’s best chance for success will be through smart segmentation. 

Is there too much hype around the M-word?

With so much more data and information about millennials at our fingertips, are we turning too much attention to them? My answer is: yes and no. Here’s why.

Related: The Truth About Facebook and Millennials

Many brands are smitten by statistics gushing about millennials’ big buying power. However, to conclude that they possess the most spending dollars is a near-sighted approach. I’d like to put it this way. Young adults may be buying more now because most of them have just stepped into new jobs or are still at an early stage of financial stability. With marriage and children will come expenses, such as daycare costs, school fees, mortgages or rent and other necessities. This will cause their spending power to decline over time.  So, it’s safe to assume millennial-centric marketing might set you up for failure in the long run.

At the same time, we can’t ignore the fact that millennials are a challenging market. They take to technology like a fish to water. It sometimes feels like their first words have a hashtag attached and smartphones are an extra appendage. When marketing to millennials, what has worked for past generations doesn’t work for them. This is why brands need to adapt and adopt a different set of strategies to attract them.    

Rather than targeting any specific age group, I think it’s more important to understand the next generation of business leaders and investors. So while there is too much hype around millennials and brands need to cut through it, it’s also very important for marketers to understand the behaviors, shopping patterns and work habits of this generation, as well as where they will be in a decade or two. The key lies in using that information to segment and power the proper type of marketing to each millennial category, rather than lumping them all of them into one big group, or, even worse, ignoring them altogether. 

Related: 5 Millennial Myths to Avoid