Forget Millennials, Market to Human Beings

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Do marketers suffer from an unjustified youth fixation? Teens and young adults are often seen as trendsetters and business bellwethers, particularly in the digital space. But what if chasing after teen opinions is a waste of marketing dollars?

Do marketers suffer from an unjustified youth fixation? Teens and young adults are often seen as trendsetters and business bellwethers, particularly in the digital space. But what if chasing after teen opinions is a waste of marketing dollars? Countless research has been done to understand the current crop of young consumers--millennials--with the belief that being favored by this group means a business will be successful. And given that millennials represent the largest group of potential customers, it's understandable that brands would pursue them.

However, the degree to which brands court millennials, particularly those still in their teens, is getting out of hand. Under the headline, "What If Teens Aren't Cool?" Gawker's Sam Biddle accuses technology vendors and reporters of having a "teen fixation."

"By an order of magnitude, more words have been written worrying about which software teens are using on their phones than have been written to explain why anyone should care to begin with," Biddle writes. "Teen behavior follows so few patterns or motives that trying to milk their wisdom in any methodical manner is a recipe for wasted time and chaos."

The problem, Biddle continues, is that "we're in a teen-worshipping holding pattern, out of either desperation or fatigue. We're in a rut."

Indeed, marketers themselves appear to be weary of chasing after millennial consumers. Last week at Hub Live's Retail Experience Symposium, Sharon Love, CEO of retail marketing agency TPN, told attendees that she was "tired of talking about millennials" and that brands are better served by remembering the value of the human touch in any customer interaction and not being afraid to "fail often and fast."

Will Clarke, executive creative director at the Integer Group, a subsidiary of the Omnicom Group, echoed Love's sentiment. "I've got a new target for you and it's not millennials," he said. "It's human beings. They are going to be big."

The characteristics often associated with millennials, that they're impatient, tech savvy, and wary of advertising, could apply to anyone. Instead of focusing on portions of their customer base, marketers and brands should challenge themselves to deliver products and services that would suit anyone.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION