Gen Y to Marketers: All Millennials Are Not The Same

Leah Hennessey is a Millennial with a wine brokerage business. Her blog, “Millennier” offers advice to winemakers wishing to connect with others of her generation. She starts by suggesting that Millennials are a generation, not a type, and a diverse one at that:

The Millennial generation, like every generation, is a group made up of VERY diverse people who all happened to be born within years of each other. We are rich and we are poor. We are waiters and CEO’s. We are crazy college kids and we are parents. What all of these different types have in common is the world that they grew up in, the universal experiences that shaped both their views and their expectations of the world around them. This is an important distinction and crucial to keep in mind. You truly can’t tell what someone in this demographic group will spend in your shop simply by noticing how old they are. This is a very sensitive subject with young people today, and that young couple in your tasting room are just as likely to assume that you will judge them based on their age… as you are likely to do it.”

Of course we are all guilty of painting with a broad brush, and Millennials are right to be sensitive about it. The issue is even more complicated in that Millennials often nurture many different interests and sides to their personality. As one Gen Y’er wisely and succinctly puts it, “We’re never all 1 thing.”

My marketing students at Notre Dame often struggle with segment-specific marketing because it seems so much like stereotyping. How is it okay to address all Hispanics the same way? All New Yorkers? All new moms? It’s more efficient however, to market to the rule, not the exceptions — the trend not the outliers. Millennials do share characteristics, values and consumption patterns — in everything from foods to media — that distinguish them from other age cohorts. Any marketer wanting to connect with this critical age group needs to grasp what makes them different from other age groups. But to stop there is to make light of the complexity of this generation.

There have been some attempts at Millennial segmentations:

Mintel provides a segmentation based on education and income. They note college students are just 15% of the 71 million young adults 18-34 in the U.S., ‘Affluent Young Adults’ make up another 19%, and the remaining two thirds are ‘Minimalists’ or ‘Unpowered Young Adults’. These groups are quite different in their demographics, buying habits and general outlook on life.

Cone provides a segmentation based on social responsibility. Sixty-one percent of Millennials are ‘Doers’ who feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world. Twenty percent are ‘Active Doers’ who are especially receptive to purchasing brands based on perceptions of social responsibility and cause branding. They volunteer at least once a week.

Pew provides a wealth of data for segmentation on politics, media use, values and religious beliefs.

With all this data at our disposal it’s time to stop thinking of Millennials as a monolithic group and start finding some meaningful segmentations. As Leah Hennessey reminds us, “It’s crucial that you don’t make the same mistake by judging and generalizing in this way, even if it’s not on purpose. It will cost you a consumer.”