Is the ‘millennial’ dead?

Today Voxburner, the UK-based agency that reports on young consumer travelRIP trends sets out its case for abandoning the term ‘millennials’ to refer to the 16-24 demographic.

You can read the full article here but their call to the marketing industry goes as follows:

  1. No-one knows who you they’re talking about – Are we talking about early teens, late teens, or those in early adulthood?
  2. The millennial age range is now ridiculous – It is now too broad to be meaningful since the consumer decisions of a school leaver will be very different to someone who’s starting to have kids and search for a mortgage.
  3. Millennials are indistinguishable – No proper age limit appears to have been set for this age group, and besides, observations about the age group have become too contradictory (community-driven people with a civic outlook or self-obsessed generation-me?).  Perhaps it’s better to give up now, and wait for Gen Z to reach late teens?

The article ends: ‘we believe there is still a case for age segmentation, when you are able to identify concerns, interests and habits that uniquely belong to one age group and not another. But not when that age group is so ever-growing and broad-stretching. It’s time to stop this millennial madness.’

My take

Pigeon-holing consumers is the most efficient way that marketers can find to target specific groups, and the label ‘millennials’ has stuck particularly well to this age group, making it sound way more futuristic and sophisticated than plain old ‘Gen Y’ or the woolly term ‘youth’. Using the term ‘millennials’ anchors this age group to a particular historical period; those who became independent consumers (ie. teens) after the year 2000.

Having said that, anyone who knows anything about young consumers will know that young peoples’  tastes in music, clothing and means of communication can change within the space of weeks, let alone years. Therefore the argument that there is little that binds millennials together in the same age bracket does hold some weight.

At the same time, perhaps the age group is better defined less as what it is, as what it’s not? Sixteen year olds do currently have more in common with 34 year olds (but less in common with 40 year olds) when it comes to avid use of social media and attitudes towards collaborative consumption. In the end, the consumption habits of millennials’ children is what will make millennials seem passé and their offspring more exciting as a consumer group.

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