A herd of sheep - Not all the sameNow, don’t get me wrong, I love a lazy shortcut as much as the next person but the reason that I tend not to use them is they are, as a rule, always completely rubbish – especially in a digital marketing context.

Take, for example, the group of people knows as Millennials. Millennials are an interesting group because, if nothing else, clients regularly ask to connect their business with Millennials.

Here are some facts about Millennials that I’ve grabbed from content shared by “experts on the internet”:

“There are about 80 million of them, born between 1980 and 1995”
(source: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-millennials-are-coming/)

That’s a fact, right there. 80 million of them born between 1980 and 1995. Fact.

“Strauss and Howe use 1982 as the Millennials’ starting birth year and 2004 as the last birth year”
(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennials)

Bin that last fact. They are actually born between 1982 and 2004.

There. A fact. Cast iron.

The Pew Research Centre defines “Millennials as being born from 1981 to 1997”

OK, so, maybe that’s a fact…

Except that Goldman Sachs says they are born between 1980 and 2000. (source: http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/millennials/)

Well, perhaps we can get a bit too hung up on dates. Let’s take some other facts.

According to Goldman Sachs, they are putting off getting married. Statistics from Pew Research show that, while in 1981 43% of 18-31 year olds were married and living in their own household, in 2012, that number was down to 23%. Although, given that, using their definition of ‘born between 1980 and 2000’, some of those Millennials would be 12-16 years old, it might be just as well that they’re not married.

You can go on with this stuff. Millennials, for instance, are completely focussed on fitness – but also routinely obese. They are ‘digital native’ but also prefer real life relationships. They smoke more but smoke less. They work endless hours but they devote more hours to leisure. They are career/society/family/money/time focused…

The list is as endless as it is meaningless.

And these sort of groupings are used in the worst of lazy marketing by people who think that, if they bamboozle their client/employer with enough buzzwords, they will be thought of as knowledgeable and with their finger on the pulse.

The non-lazy solution is to research and understand your target audience – that takes hard work, time and skill. It also means segmentation. Segmentation is a recognition that any audience group is made up of many parts with differing triggers and hooks. There’s an old, old joke that goes “How many lawyers do you need before you get two opposing views? One.” In any given group, the total number of triggers and hooks will always be larger than the number of people in the group.

What we know about Millennials for fact is:

1 – They are a group of people.

2 – They were born sometime.

3 – They have an incredibly diverse outlook, skill set, range of interests, relationship status and so on.

You can say the same about all other non-homogenous groups – ‘digital natives’ is another current meaningless favourite. For digital marketers in particular, these groups are broadly pointless. We (should) have and use the tools to be able to be more sophisticated than trying to speak to groups that don’t exist.

Marketers need to move away from using these ridiculous groupings and start thinking in terms of segmented audience in actual real life. Yes that takes more time. Yes it takes more effort. For some of them, it may even take a little training. But understanding who your client is meant to be talking to doesn’t just make you more credible, it also gives better outcomes for the businesses you are trying to help.

Not all Millennials think alike. Not all Baby-boomers were at Woodstock. Not all Digital Natives use Twitter. We need to be smarter than that. Much smarter.


I originally published this article on LinkedIn Pulse. You can find out more about me on LinkedIn by clicking here.

Written by James