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Talkin’ ‘Bout Those G-g-g-generations

Johnny Molson

Who is your customer? 

Don’t move to the next line until you answer that question.  

You likely answered with a range of ages, or sex: “Mostly women, someplace between 30 and 50.”

Or you reached into the clouds and pulled buzz-worthy words like “upwardly mobile” or “Gen-X…but really I gotta go for the Millennials, cuz that’s where the future is.”

But none of that answers the question of “who” your customer is. It might tell me “what” your customer is; a certain age or sex, but it doesn’t tell me “who” your customer is. And “who” your customer is, is far more important than “what” they are.

In fact, research shows that people who share generational groups have very little in common with each other.

BBH Labs, the R&D arm of BBH Advertising in London, developed a “Group Cohesion Score;” a way to determine what groups of people have in common with each other. The higher the number, the more alike the members of the group are. We’ve all been told that “Millennials all think, act, and believe in the same ways…” right?

But it turns out, Millennials have little in common with each other. They are not a single-minded monolith. In fact, you can find more in common among people who do crossword puzzles, than you can among Millennials.

Yes, they were all born within a 16-ish year window, and they are the children of a group of people born within a previous 16-year window, but that’s as far as the commonalities go.

Credit: BBH-Labs

To get a Group Cohesion Score, BBH scored over 400 statements ranging from “I use a refillable water bottle,” to “There’s little I can do to change my life,” to “A real man can down several pints in a sitting.” The more statements that lined up with each other, the higher the score.

Millennials scored a 2.1, whereas people who floss scored 2.9.

Gen X scored even lower, at 1.3, whereas people who eat nuts scored a 3.8. Yes, people who enjoy nuts every day have more in common with each other than do Boomers, Gen-Xers, Millennials, or Gen Z.

To put it another way: the marketer who tells you he has a plan to target “people who floss” is far more intelligent than a marketer who says he can target “Millennials.” You can’t target a group that isn’t a group.

The United States has over 79 million people who fall into the category of “Millennial.” That’s more than Cuba, Australia, and Iraq combined. 

If you were to suggest those 3 countries think, act, shop, and value things identically…people would call you a lunatic.

But for some reason when suggesting Millennials all think, act, shop, and value things identically…people will call you a “marketer.”

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