Ditching the Generational Stereotypes

written by Melina

Today on the blog we look at whether it’s time for marketeers to ditch the generational stereotypes. We question if all those studies about Millennials are really helping brands understand their customers or should they look beyond generalisation to create meaningful relationships?

Brands are having a difficult time figuring out who their customers are, especially younger ones, as evidenced by the myriad of terms created to qualify them: Generation Y, Digital natives, Millennials, Generation Me, Generation Z, Generation K… Most studies give different definitions of those terms, and a lot of them do little more than perpetuating stereotypes and pre-conceived ideas about the consumers of today.

Millennials in particular have been the subject of much research, and have been labelled lazy, entitled and narcissistic, as well as ambitious, highly educated and conscious.  If nothing else, all the various studies on Millennials show that data can be used to prove anything.

There is no doubt that segmentation is a good way to help companies better understand their customers and that generations, by definition, are shaped by shared events and cultural influences that contribute to a collective consciousness. But by looking at audiences only through the prism of generations, marketeers run the risk of over-simplifying who their customers are and what they want.

One thing that brands should know by now is that the “one size fits all” approach is rarely successful. “Brands don’t just want awareness anymore, they want, and need, relationships” says Helen Hanson, founder of Hel’s Angels. “And to create and foster meaningful relationships, they have to know and understand their customers as individuals, which means doing more than simply labelling them based on their age.”

While some Millennials are still in higher education, others are already long into their professional careers. The label leaves no room for understanding the differences of people as individuals. It can be dangerous for brands to use sweeping generalisations and trying to fit all of them into the same pigeonhole does everyone an expensive and often demoralising disservice.

Generations are an informative place to start, but clever marketers should look beyond the labels and be wary of generational stereotypes. Brands need to better understand the nuances of their customers’ mindset and see them as individuals if they want to create lasting relationships based on trust.

So what does this mean for brands wanting to connect with people through experiential activity? Ultimately it means looking at the audience you are targeting as individuals, who all want to take a unique experience away with them.  By looking at the actual audience, everything from the communication, through to the design of the experience and staff can be hand-picked to appeal to that audience – creating a brand experience which is authentic.

This philosophy allows brands to create meaningful content rather than a clichéd experience which won’t truly connect with consumers.

This blog originally appeared in Event Magazine