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BWP Group: It’s as easy as X, Y, millennial…

So over the last few years, marketing has become more challenging as retailers struggle to reach the ‘golden egg’ that has become the millennial. This is interesting, because surely it’s easier to reach a vast audience that all think and feel the same.

‘Generation Me’ or the ‘Entitlement Generation’, as anyone born in the 80s and 90s have also been dubbed, tend to only be interested in themselves; they’re over-confident, fame-obsessed and selfish, shaped by a narcissistic digital age – a marketer’s demographic dream.

Or… and this is where it gets complicated, they are entrepreneurial, socially aware, generous and hardworking, shaped by an age of austerity and an intrinsic unfairness they observe via their ultra-connected world.

There are certain facts that are undeniable when looking at generational segments. Millennials are certainly the world’s first digital natives. Born into a world with connectivity at their fingertips, they are more aware of technology, and how they can use it to make their lives easier or more fun. And there are a lot of them – about 16 million in the UK.

These are two of the reasons why retailers and marketers have been duped into seeing millennials as the pot at the end of the rainbow. We know where they spend their time, how they shop, how they socialise and there are lots of them eagerly looking spend their disposable income. But to simplify our marketing communications to target a single homogenous group is not just a bit lazy; it’s an expensive mistake that loses sight of the bigger picture.

Firstly, as demonstrated above, this group is no different to the many generations before it. There are different behaviours, mind-sets, groups, fans and tribes. To treat them all the same, loses sight of the fact that people are generally looking for greater personalisation and relevance in the way we communicate with them – that’s the data exchange that’s been implicitly agreed.

Secondly, it ignores the fact that many segments of the generations before the Millennials have more disposable income, greater wealth and are also increasingly switched on to the advantages technology holds.

In order to make communications more relevant, and therefore more efficient, it’s important retailers become far less ‘age’ focused in how they segment their audiences. Examining the customer journey and customer mind-set at each stage of that journey is a far more valuable way of building proper segmentation and creating far more valuable and bespoke audience personas. A 25-year-old who researches purchase through bloggers and peers and then goes to a store to purchase, is going to have more in common with a 40-year-old who does the same, than another 25-year-old who prefers to go to a physical store for comparison research, before finding the best online deal to purchase.

This approach also offers useful future-proofing for activity; undoubtedly millennials will soon fall from marketers’ favour as the next fresh-faced generational segment (Generation Q) appears over the horizon with bulging wallets. The switched-on retailer will already have a segment for that, with no need to start ripping up their marketing plans in a clamour to engage with a group of people who are not really that different to the people that came before.


Words by Kieron Weedon, director of Strategy at the BWP Group