Being a Millennial: Age-based or Mindset-based?
One of the largest generations in history has begun making a move into their prime spending years. Traditionally categorised as being between the ages of 20 and 37, Millennials are poised to reshape the economy. This is driving companies to examine what makes this generation tick. However, it is becoming increasingly convenient for marketers to place humans in demographic boxes, while Netflix’s Vice-President of production, Todd Yellin, slams the use of generational generalisation as being “almost useless”.
Naturally, our world as we know it is forever evolving, exposing us to what was once unknown. Making the intangible, tangible. This has seen the increase in fluidity with which people live their lives. Although this has been labelled as a ‘millennial trait’, the advances in technology and our ability to explore and discover new ways of doing things, no matter our age or year of birth, has impacted our behaviour.
We have all become accustomed to the term ‘millennial’, and with the sheer size of the generation, it is understandable that this group of people is the talking point of many discussions. However, this label tends to be depicted by the attitudes and expectations of that particular demographic, rather than being about their age specifically. Millennials have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization and economic disruption. This has given them a different set of behaviours and experiences to their parents, resulting in a new view towards lifestyles. Additionally, being known as digital natives, their affinity for technology has helped shape how they shop. They are used to instant access to price comparisons, product information and peer reviews while being dedicated to wellness through the devotion of time and money to exercising and eating right. However, is this specific to all individuals born between the 1980s and 1990s?
In essence, millennials are deemed to be a product of their upbringing as they have grown up in a time of rapid change, in which the development in technology has given this generation far more access to resources than any other generation. Thus, giving them a set of priorities and expectations that drive their core characteristics. Jeremy Rifkin describes it as “a different world, a different worldview”, in which this demographic is turning to a new set of services that provide access to products without the burdens of ownership, giving rise to what's being called a "sharing economy." So much so that Jeremy Rifkin explains that “25 years from now, car sharing will be the norm, and car ownership an anomaly”. But, once again, can it be said that only those of a particular age will be involved with this change?
When looking at common business practices, with marketing being the most obvious, we tend to target needs, wants and preferences rather than simply the age of the individual. While it is satisfying to categorise individuals based on age, it is more appropriate to classify a set of people as millennials according to the things they have an affinity with. These beliefs and behaviours, although influenced by the period in which they were born and raised, can be found just as much in other individuals of older generations. While certain individuals who are thought to be millennials lack these definitive characteristics.
In my opinion, age-based segmentation does not make sense in today’s world where data and data analysis tools are widely available. Segmentation based on psychographic factors such as psychological, sociological, and anthropological factors (i.e. benefits desired, self-concept, and lifestyle) can be seen to be so much more accurate for marketers and businesses in today’s world. Ultimately, Millennials are not a homogenous set of people but are in fact, the most diverse generation in terms of their attitude, preferences, wants and needs.
So, if millennials exist only as a result of being born during a specific period, can we assume that those that fall outside this bracket to not behave similarly?
Bradley Barrett | LinkedIn