We love millennials! Millennials are different; they are sharp, open-minded, techy, digital, and the perfect fit for our brand, whatever brand we might own. In digital apps, books, consumer package goods, or alcoholic drinks, millennials are the magic solution to our marketing segmentation. Is this the myth of the last decade in Marketing? One that we fell so quickly into its trap. Because if you work in Marketing, there is a high chance that you are a millennial. Just remember, you are not the consumer.
The next two simple graphs should create an A-HA moment and convince you that the millennial opportunity is not that big. Two significant insights spring to mind: millennials are not the majority (duh), and second, they have the least disposable income to spend.
By targeting millennials, you are consciously deciding to ignore 80% of the population, maybe because you are a Pareto fan. Do you know accurately that 20% of your customers represent 80% of your revenue? Recheck your data. Unless you are active in the business of graduate recruitment or student debt repayment options, I would doubt it.
Second, irrespective of the year, unemployment among millennials was higher than any other age group (that’s in the US, in Europe is even worse). Add to this the limited purchasing power of millennials, and your story starts to have legs. Don’t you think you should broaden your target?
3 simple insights to start your recovery journey:
Understand who buys your category – not just your brand.
Learn about your customers; know the revenue each age-group segment generates.
Study demographic trends for your market; in an aging population world, don’t be blind to your most valuable target group.
When I started working for Mars, one of my favorite onboarding reads I had to consume covered the dos and don’t of marketing research. Among excellent references to statistical significance, confidence intervals, and the role of probability, the highlight was the image shown below. It pictures a drunk man using a lamppost for support rather than its typical use: illumination. And that’s how we tend to use research with the wrong purpose in mind.
We often ask consumers what we want to hear and are overly enthusiastic when their answers match our needs. A concept validation is mistakenly seen as a sign of research success. We should be disappointed when the research outcome is clean; we should ask for new insights, not a confirmation. Research should be about learning something new. Let’s not forget: we are not the consumer. And if we think we could know in advance what they precisely want from our vantage point, we are maybe wrong.
So let’s start asking more from consumer research; let’s go beyond validation and into illumination. The role of a lamppost is to illuminate the way, even if you are drunk and can’t seem to find yours.
The role of a marketing researcher is to help marketers make smarter decisions through an excellent understanding of consumers behaviors and the market context. It is evident to me that the final business decision-maker is the marketer, but on insight generation, she/he should trust the researcher’s experience and let him drive.
As I think of the most significant breakthrough in the advertising creative measurement research practice at Mars, a single change comes to mind: the moment we stopped giving marketing numbers and forced them to decide based on a four stars scale effectiveness rating. You could call it an intelligent traffic light; at each level of the scale, the next action-to-be-executed was crystal clear, with no room for interpretation. Similar to every organizational change, it wasn’t easy, but the new common language and direct actions were transformational for Mars marketers. A decision to restrict access to details fixed.
Why did it work?
Raw data numbers require a deeper understanding of statistics, of variance, of confidence intervals, of probabilities. Most marketers, with all due respect, are not trained to play with those concepts. As a researcher, keep ambiguity of data interpretation on your side, tell them a crystal clear message they can action.
Traffic lights or a star rating scale are simple constructs present in our day to day life. From car traffic control flow to hotel bookings or online ratings, we got trained to read quality scales without too much training. What matters to a marketer is the correct next action: make it binary, make it simple, make it decisive.
A strong endorsement from the CMO is helping. Convince first a senior marketer that can become your spokesman with things that matter to him. Show how meta-analyses are easier to manage, how internal behaviors could be shifted more easily or how positive competition gets triggered between units using a common simple language.
How can you streamline your research to get to the essence?