2017 has to be the death of the millennial…. at least the term.
It is an out of date term that doesn’t describe the different characteristics of a complex, multi-segmented audience. Brands feel out of touch if they don’t have it on an agency brief, agencies are getting away with delivering average work addressing a hugely diverse audience and people born from the year 1980 see themselves being able to give much more to society than their internet savvy, narcissistic, selfie influencer demanding instant gratification label… and breathe!
Consumer lifestyles no longer fit neatly into marketers’ tick boxes. With the rise of an ageless society, the death of age-driven segmentations and broad terms like ‘millennials’, they’re going to face growing challenges. It’s now time for brands and agencies to shift their focus to searching for common behaviours across less rigid lines, acknowledging that millennials, Gen Y, Boomers, etc. don’t fit precisely into one group.
No doubt there is some common ground between people that fit within the age demographic, but as marketers we have to work harder at working with our clients in being more forensic with who we wish to engage with, why we wish to engage with them, defining the audience’s role in our brand ambition and then taking a multi-tiered approach to creative messaging and delivery.
Southpaw is owned by the Japanese global advertising network Hakuhodo, and we benefit from being romanced by them on different planning methodologies. When building strategies and creative campaigns to engage with multiple audiences, they start from an interesting place. They have a philosophy called sei-katsu-sha, which means ‘living person’, and is quite different from the Japanese word for consumer, ‘shohisha’, which limits the person to the act of consuming or buying. In the western world, I fear we focus too much on the shohisha.
The sei-katsu-sha insight expresses a more holistic view on a person, including an individual’s lifestyle, preferences, dreams, ambitions and behaviour. It sounds simple, but we say that most consumer research is like a painting of people in which the artist has forgotten to fill in the faces. For advertisers, what tends to be missing is the most important piece - a true understanding of the people they’re trying to connect with.
So the next time you receive a brief with an audience profile of ‘targeting millennials’, please stop and ask what that means. Our industry needs to keep delivering brave and engaging creativity, inspired by a more holistic understanding of consumers that goes beyond just demographics, rather than producing mediocre work to a generalised grouping of individuals.
Tom Poynter, Group Managing Director, Southpaw