Joel Vincent: Debunking the Millennial Myth

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Joel Vincent: Debunking the Millennial Myth

By Joel Vincent, market insights manager, Experian Marketing Services.


Mark Ritson’s explanation of effective target marketing cuts to the core of the issue: “the whole myth of the Millennial segment makes a mockery of just about every principle of basic segmentation”.

Essentially, when the segmentation is wrong, then the targeting will be wrong, meaning your positioning is probably pointless and the tactical decisions made as a result will no doubt be ineffective.

Yet the treatment of the Millennial population continues to fail the accurate segmentation test. Assumptions about the significant population of consumers born between 1983 and 1992 persist and a ‘bank’ of behavioural and attitudinal myths continue to build.

Analysis of these consumers reveals a rich and diverse population that exhibit significant variance across many attributes that influence their consumption decisions. As Deloitte observed in their study in the American consumer, people behave more like their income than their age. Broad-brush behavioural and attitudinal assertions based entirely on age ignore many of the real and powerful influences on these consumers.

An apparent snowball like effect of stereotypes, generalisations and assumptions about Millennials has created an almost mythical consumer rich in disposable income, free from restrictive traditional beliefs yet yearning to be just like their parents. For example:

– Affluence: Assumptions of disposable income being spent on new technology and long brunches at the latest hotspot are not always valid, given recent research would suggest Millennials are financially worse off than generations before them, and financial pressure imposes significant restrictions on the Millennial .

– Digital Only: Theories that this population (and GenZ) will shun traditional media and rely on digital only are being continually revealed as flawed. Increased access and availability to online channels appeals to many Millennials, but as seen by the ongoing buoyancy of free-to-air TV audiences, many are still glued to the television to watch the latest shows, Millennials are no more immune to the drama of Married at First Sight than the rest of us. Undoubtedly the way we consume television has changed, but it remains a significant and important media channel.

– Inner city: The natural ‘hunting ground’ of the Millennial is the gentrified hipster filled streets of our major cities, right? Not entirely – ignoring the suburban and regional Millennials misses a significant proportion of these consumers.

– Avocados: Don’t get me started…

Sure, there are some that fit the more stereotypical bill, such as Millennial Kidults, Gentrifiers and New-Age Metros living in inner city enclaves, but there are significant segments of this population that own their homes and are living in suburban areas with their new families. There are many who are driven, career and family focussed, dedicated employees who prefer the relatively quiet life found in the suburban housing estates.

In fact, our analysis of the Millennial population reveals nine important and significant segments of consumers:

– New Estate Lifestyles: Escaping the inner-city squeeze of their first homes in outer-suburban housing estates
– Working Hard: Singles working hard mainly in blue-collar professions on average incomes with a high propensity to spend
– Studying Hard: International students working towards significant tertiary qualifications at some of Australia’s respected education institutions
– Young ‘Aussie battlers’: Young couples and families living in suburban Australia
– Regional Youth: Young families, often single parents with lower than average income and education levels
– Gap Year: Young adults enjoying extra time to decide on further study and career choices
– New Age Metros: Inner-city couples and singles living the stereotypical Millennial lives of working hard and playing hard
– Kidults: Choosing to live in the family home enjoying the reduced exposure to cost of living expenses
– Gentrifiers: Finding affordable pockets of our major cities tightly held by established older populations

As the demand for a more personalised experience continues to grow, consumers expect businesses to have an accurate understanding of their needs and wants. This expectation is even stronger for those classified as Millennials who have grown up in a highly saturated marketing world, their minds geared to analyse and dismiss poorly crafted content with the flick of a thumb. Taking a broad-brush stereotyping approach to targeting Millennials is a sure-fire way to see your messaging fall short of the mark.