Blog: Is it time for marketers to ditch the generational stereotypes?

Are all those studies about Millennials really helping companies understand their customers, or should they look beyond generalisation to create meaningful relationships?

Is it time for marketers to ditch the generational stereotypes?
Is it time for marketers to ditch the generational stereotypes?

Marketers are having a difficult time figuring out who their customers are, especially younger ones, as evidenced by the myriad of terms created to qualify them: Generation Y, Digital natives, Millennials, Generation Me, Generation Z, Generation K... Most studies give different definitions of those terms, and a lot of them do little more than perpetuating stereotypes and pre-conceived ideas about the consumers of today.

Millennials in particular have been the subject of much research, and have been labelled lazy, entitled and narcissistic, as well as ambitious, highly educated and conscious. If nothing else, all the various studies on Millennials show that data can be used to prove anything.

There is no doubt that segmentation is a good way to help companies better understand their customers and that generations, by definition, are shaped by shared events and cultural influences that contribute to a collective consciousness. But by looking at audiences only through the prism of generations, marketers run the risk of over- simplifying who their customers are and what they want.

One thing that marketers should know by now is that the "one size fits all" approach is rarely successful.

Brands don’t just want awareness anymore, they want, and need, relationships. And to create and foster meaningful relationships, they have to know and understand their customers as individuals, which means doing more than simply labelling them based on their age.

While some Millennials are still in higher education, others are already long into their professional careers. The label leaves no room for understanding the differences of people as individuals. It can be dangerous for brands to use sweeping generalisations and trying to fit all of them into the same pigeonhole does everyone an expensive and often demoralizing disservice.

Generations are an informative place to start, but clever marketers should look beyond the labels and be wary of generational stereotypes. Brands need to better understand the nuances of their customers’ mindset and see them as individuals if they want to create lasting relationships based on trust.

So what does this mean for brands wanting to connect with people through experiential activity? Ultimately it means looking at the audience you are targeting as individuals, who all want to take a unique experience away with them. By looking at the actual audience, everything from the communication, through to the design of the experience and staff can be hand-picked to appeal to that audience, creating an authentic brand experience.

This philosophy allows brands to create meaningful content rather than a clichéd experience, which won’t truly connect with consumers.


Helen Hanson is director of Hel’s Angels

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