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Marketing to Millennials is Pointless

We’ve all seen them. They seem to be everywhere these days. Articles, advice, seminars, videos, and blog posts teaching us how to market to “Millennials”. Seemingly the holy grail of marketing audiences these days, Millennials are defined as the generation of individuals ranging from 18-37 years old, depending on who you ask. Because of the sheer multitude of Millennials (about 40-70 million, varying by expert opinion), and their presumed purchasing power over the next several years, this group has become a prime target for many brands. Most companies are attempting to reduce this massive population segment into a single set of defining characteristics, including generalized information about millennial values, buying habits and preferred experiences.

We’ve heard many of the stereotypes: “Millennials are more socially conscious – let’s play up our sustainability efforts” or “Millennials are more casual – let’s show them how hip and laid back we are at our office.” All well and good, but there are several problems with these stereotypical approaches. First: such efforts will likely fall flat if these tactics are not truly representative of the core values of the company. After all, aren’t Millennials the generation that demands transparency, and will thus see through such hollow, manipulative attempts?

Cheekiness aside, a second and larger problem is that while Millennials are poised to be the world’s biggest consumer force, almost all conversations seem to lump them into a single, homogenous group, with a presumed set of common values. Reducing a population of several million people into a single set of values is bound to be inaccurate at best, and insulting at worst.

Millennials, like any other generation, vary in personality, geography, life stage, and, of course, values. Would a 32-year old female software engineer living in Silicon Valley have the same values, goals, and life priorities as an 18-year old male retail clerk from the Midwest? Most likely not. But according to demographic segmentations they would likely both fall under the all-encompassing “Millennial” umbrella, and potentially be courted in the same manner by businesses and employers.

Another issue when attempting to pinpoint the values of any generation is that people vary not only in their core values, but also in their ideas about what values even represent in the first place. For example, Millennials are often said to demand a sense of “purpose” from their chosen brands. As a result, companies are jumping onto the purpose-marketing bandwagon, implementing corporate giving campaigns, volunteer programs and marketing campaigns with charitable components. However, “purpose” is not really an actionable value in and of itself, but a general overriding life goal that applies to all of us. Almost everyone, regardless of background, upbringing or demographic, seeks some sort of purpose in their lives. But what is purposeful to a more liberal, coastal resident (fair working conditions for employees, for example), may not be what is purposeful to a conservative heartland dweller (e.g. Made in the U.S.A).

In order to craft a truly motivational marketing strategy, a more meaningful definition of the values of the target audience is necessary. Whole Foods has crafted an advertising campaign using the tagline “Values Matter”. True enough, but which values, and for whom? Would your customers’ sense of purpose be better stimulated with a campaign promoting social justice, or the needs of U.S. veterans? Family security or personal adventure? Spiritual fulfillment or having fun? To answer these questions, companies need to go beyond demographics to gain alignment with the true values of their audience.

The fact is, Millennials are simply human beings. They are really no different from any other generation when it comes to making decisions based on their values. In psychology, prominent theories state that a person or group’s core values are the primary driving force behind all of their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and decisions. Many of Zenzi’s services are based on our Values Marketing practice, which is grounded in these well-established theories. Our recommendations and insights are based on our research, which has uncovered four primary value types, each possessing distinct, data-driven characteristics and predictive abilities that go well beyond generic categories such as “Millennials”.

Labels such as “Millennials” are convenient, easily digestible, and make for clickable headlines. However, we believe companies that rely solely on age-based categorizations are missing out on a fantastic opportunity to further refine their customer segmentation strategies, develop more passionate brand advocates, and increase ROI for all of their marketing efforts.

For a free Values Marketing audit, fill out our request form here.  You’ll also receive a copy of our z-book, Beyond Demographics.

By admin

Increase the Effectiveness of Content Marketing

Get into the hearts and minds of your customers

A recent study by Forrester revealed that though 75% of marketers are increasing their content marketing budgets this year, over half feel that their efforts are largely ineffective, and 26% more feel that their efforts are “neutral”.

The increase in spending clearly indicates that marketers believe content can have a big impact on sales. So why are so many failing to achieve their goals?

At Zenzi, we know that it’s not just about publishing content, but publishing the RIGHT content.

We know that pushing out messages doesn’t work. To make an impact, you’ve got to go deeper. A good place to start is to think of the brands you love. Why do you love them?

Most likely, they’ve tapped into your inner values, and forged a relationship that goes beyond a great product or service.

Demographics are not Enough

Now think about your own customers. You may know a lot about them, their age, income level, gender, level of education, general interests and behaviors.

But do you really know what inspires them? Or what will turn them into lifelong customers? The secret is to uncover what motivates them based on their inner values.

Throughout our lives, our demographics shift and change; we go to school, get married, become parents, make more (or less) money. These shifting qualifiers make it very difficult for many marketers to pinpoint what truly defines their customer.

One example to illustrate the point is how marketers typically approach connecting with moms. We’ve had dozens of clients tell us that they’d like to target moms, assuming that is enough information for us. But we always ask…which moms? Is becoming a mother a universal unifier? Of course not! As soon as we understand how values play in to people’s decisions, our mission becomes much more effective.

Bringing Values into the Equation

To more effectively market to moms (or any other demographic group), consider what truly motivates people. Some are motivated by prestige, others by serving a greater purpose. Some will seek pleasure first, while others will focus on security. Many people are comforted by tradition and a sense of history, while others have a desire for freedom and paving their own way.

By bringing these values-based insights into your existing marketing campaigns, we can create content that speaks more directly to these inner motivators, gaining more powerful results across a variety of platforms.

For example, when someone clicks on a PPC ad, what is their experience like on the landing page? Does the content deliver information about your product or service? Most likely, yes. But you need to go deeper. Ask yourself, does it provide what they innately desire to inspire them to take the next step? The most inspiring content is selfless, so take your company’s outbound sales message out of the equation, and instead focus on the inner needs of your customer.

How Zenzi Can Help

Zenzi’s team uniquely combines years of marketing experience, academic research, and data science. Through our work with companies across diverse industries, we have empirical evidence of exactly what works with your audience’s unique value type. Zenzi developed ValueBase™ to get the results you need. It is a research tool and marketing strategist rolled into one. It allows us to measure and pinpoint your customer’s core values, better understand how those values will motivate behavior, and create a communications strategy that speaks to values in a powerful and impactful way.

We offer more than just a customer profile, we do the legwork and offer you a custom and effective communications strategy that you can easily apply to your company.

By uncovering your customer’s inner values, we identify your most profitable (and loyal!) targets, and unlock a more effective content marketing strategy. These more effective connections generate interest, trial, word of mouth, and increased sales.

For a free evaluation of how values can increase the effectiveness of your marketing communications strategy, contact Julie Lyons at Julie@zenzi.com, or 949-233-3407.

 

Marketing to Millennials is Pointless