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Please Erase “Millennial” From Your Vocabulary

The word “millennial” has reached a tipping point, in my opinion. It has transitioned from being an academic definition of a specific generation to a lazy catch-all marketers use when trying to answer the “what’s next” question for businesses.

I was recently, pleasantly surprised to read that someone with the title “director of millennial engagement” feels similarly about the term millennial being too limited. Here’s an excerpt from an NPR’s Q&A with Monsanto’s Vance Crowe:

NPR: Why exclusively millennials? Is there a director of boomer engagement, too?

Crowe: Millennials are looking to how they’re going to fit into the economy and culture, and they have a new set of ideas that need to be incorporated into all aspects of global life. We use the term “millennial,” but it really has to do with new ideas out there, and listening to them.

Younger people – read: new consumers – can terrify some business executives. They represent an unknown, an unwelcome shift in how things are done. But millennials are not all the same; just like every prior generation is not comprised of identical people with the exact same motivators, behaviors and ideas. If you think all millennials should be lumped together simply by age, you’ll miss out on the valuable opportunity to truly understand, segment and prioritize your target audiences.

For a company like Monsanto, the millennial audience may be segmented to include urban foodies against GMOs, young farmers interested in bringing more technology onto the field and young scientists looking for innovative work. Those three audiences clearly require different messages and outreach tactics.

The next time you consider using the term “millennials,” stop and consider the mindset of the person you’re trying to capture – without inserting age into the equation. Consider how you can further divide the larger group and/or incorporate older or younger individuals with a similar mindset. Take the time to think through your audience’s motivators and behaviors – you may find that you’re limiting yourself by using the catch-phrase of the day.

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