First Step For Marketers to Understand Millennials: Dump the Stereotypes

All of these negative talk is getting people nowhere.


Much has been made about marketers’ attempts to reach millennials. This group, probably more so than others, is fragmented by all of the media options at their fingertips. They’re struggling right now with an economy that has made some of the traditional milestones, like buying a house, out of reach. And they have a different set of criteria to determine what’s valuable enough to spend money on.

Learning more about their lives and how they’re managing the obstacles they face is the first step to reaching them with a message that makes sense. Continuing with stereotypes — lazy, entitled, narcissistic, etc — will not.

The New York Times published a story recently taking a closer look at the challenges marketers face targeting millennials. The need to establish an understanding can be summed up simply: They are “the consumers that will drive the economy in the decades ahead.”

The article makes the point that this isn’t the first time that marketers have been stumped by a target group growing into consumers. It happened with the baby boomers, but they grew up to have a lot of money, both in the bank and on their credit cards. “Our whole consumer model is based on the baby boom,” says Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.

Millennials are now the largest demographic and the most educated. They came up at a time when traditional advertising became less and less effective. Among their most popular brands, according to a survey by Teen Vogue and Goldman Sachs are Target and Louis Vuitton, a mix of high and low. They mostly shop online, according to the Times and will splurge on some items even while they actively seek out a bargain.

By the end of the story, the conclusion is that everyone is clueless. To start, marketers have to gain greater insight into what makes this group tick. What will they spend a little extra for? And on what will they take a pass? What will inspire them to act? Start to answer these questions and you’ve got the first step.

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