TIME Magazine, May 2013

The Myth of the Millennial

Millennials. Everyone wants millennials. Show me a brand with a target age less than 50, and I’ll show you a brand that has told someone, somewhere, that they want to target or attract millennials.

So when you say you want to target millennials, what are you saying? You want “young people” in college and just out of college?  Want to break through to someone whose attention span is limited? You want to embrace an optimistic spirit? You want to appeal to narcissists? You want hipsters? Or tattoos? Or diversity?

When you SAY your brand wants millennials…. what image comes to your mind?

Is that image different than what you would picture if you wanted to target 18-34 year olds?

If so… should it be?

If you’re using the standard definition, then millennials now ARE the 18-34 year old demo.  All of it.

In his talk at Deep Shift “Millennials Don’t Exist”, Adam Conover makes the case that generational labels in general are useless ways of categorizing people. Not only does research suggest these generalizations do not accurately reflect the generation it describes, worse, these generational labels are nothing more than negative stereotypes older people have about young people. And they always have been.

So let’s dig deeper. When you say you want millennials, let’s start with 18-34 year olds. From there, let’s decide together how to segment that demo to reach your intended audience.  Because I don’t want to be trying to reach a 30-year-old millennial entrepreneur when you’re thinking of a 19-year-old college kid who never stops snap-chatting. And these days, “millennial” means both.

Or neither… because they don’t exist.

Megan Garcia is the Manager of Strategic Marketing and Social Outreach for the CBS Altitude Group. Depending on who you ask she’s either a millennial or a genX-er, but now that we know generations don’t exist she feels much less conflicted about her love of both early 90s grunge and snap-chat filters. 

[photo: TIME Magazine, May 2013]