Market To Audiences, Not Generations

While Millennials are the go-to demographic in marketing these days, they are hardly monolithic. Theirs is a huge group of people, born between 1981 and 1996.

Any marketer who has done audience modeling knows that a consumer segment that large is no longer a “target,” but multiple targets with age ranges, income, interests and life stages.

The sheer size of this group leads many marketers to target them en masse, but as a group, Millennials are not homogenous. At the young end are new adults, ranging in age from 18 to 25. Just out of college, new to full-time jobs, renters rather than homeowners, their incomes are vastly different from those on the other end of the spectrum. Married, new parents, mortgage holders, car owners – yet still called Millennials.

That’s why nobody is marketing to Millennials as such, they’re marketing to audiences. Maybe it’s time we stopped labeling large diverse groups of people with monikers that identify the “generation” to which they belong. Doesn’t big data, analysis, platform, channel, location and contextual marketing make concepts like Gen X, Y, or Z or Baby Boomers irrelevant in this day and age?



Here are some ways in which consumer brands can start thinking about marketing approaches to fit the audience, not the generation:

1. Offer experiences rather than “things.” Almost two years ago, in a bid to re-invigorate Bud Light, AB InBev rolled out its “Up for Whatever” campaign, which included invitations for a lucky bunch to attend exclusive events. It was supported by a creative campaign on paid and earned channels, and while it may have had young adults in mind, there was no age limit (besides legal drinking age) specified to participate. Recently, Jorn Socquet, U.S. VP-marketing for AB InBev, said their Millennial focus needed to expand and not “try so hard,” according to Advertising Age. Now, he says, “Bud Light as a brand appeals to everybody. And everybody who is young at hear should be attracted to Bud Light, not just [young adults].”

2. Technology knows no age group. TGI Friday’s, the casual dining chain, in early March unveiled a reimagined restaurant and menu. It added multiple bar areas and hang-out spaces. Upgrades in technology are part of this, from reliable Wi-fi to equipping wait staff with tablets in a bid to increase customer interactions while simultaneously speeding up orders and check processing. While middle-aged folks who frequent the restaurant may not be drawn to the “hang-out” spaces, they, too can appreciate the access to reliable Wi-fi and the use of tablets for ordering and paying quickly.

3. Attune your offering to consumers’ life stages and need states. It’s safe to assume that all consumers’ needs change; unencumbered free spirits become mortgage-holding homeowners, and their motivations change with their behaviors. Target and build relationships with customers of all ages.

Look at how Honey Maid, the graham cracker made by Mondelez International, has engaged a broad swath of adults by positioning the brand as a nourishing comfort snack. Its “This is wholesome” campaign embraced a key insight: The definition of family has changed.

In one spot, Honey Maid showed different types of families, all real people, not actors – two dads, single dad, inter-racial couple, military family, a rocker family – participating in heartwarming family activities. It received some negative reactions so Honey Maid created a second, bold spot. Rather than ignoring the backlash, the brand incorporated the overwhelmingly positive comments about the ad from various consumers. When released on social media, that second spot, on its first day, logged more than 1.5 million views and yielded increased purchase intent amongst more than half (57%) of people who viewed it. The big takeaway here is that brands brave enough to treat consumers as partners win big.

4. Strong brand positioning goes a long way. Lowe’s, the home improvement chain, successfully communicated its “DIY is accessible” message to various audiences with its “Fix in Six” video series, deployed across social media platforms like Vine. The new content is the same in spirit as what’s posted on Lowes.com, with slightly tweaked messaging.

Marketing to audiences, not generations, means focusing on life stages and needs. Consumers with kids in tow or retirees who yearn for simpler, less inexpensive restaurants and beverages will thank you.

1 comment about "Market To Audiences, Not Generations".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 28, 2016 at 9:51 a.m.

    I couldn't agree more, Adam. Trouble is that many people in the advertising business prefer simplistic formulas to really getting in there and doing some digging to define differentiated subsets of target groups, how their minds work and how to reach them. It's so much easier to deal with broadstroke conglomerates like "Millennials" or "Boomers" as if these are really homogenious aggregations of consumers who march to the same drum beat.

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