Is it just me or is the millennial dialog getting a little old to you too? We’ve all heard the conversations; I bet some of you have even clicked on those sensationalized headlines, “Top 10 Cities Millennials Want to Live,” “How to Market to Millennials,” “The Mindset of Millennials” or even, “Inside the Mind of a Millennial”- that one is my favorite.

Marketers have become o-b-s-e-s-s-e-d with millennials. While in some ways I understand the obsession -they do represent over 1/3 of the total U.S. population- the word itself seems to have morphed into representing more than just a group of people born between 1980 and the mid-2000s.1960s smoking ad

We’ve taken a huge sample of people that vary by age, race, religion, sexuality and gender and created this nonsensical, paradoxical character that we accept as the norm. They’re ambitious but lazy, hyper-connected, but self-absorbed, altruistic, but entitled. It seems to me that the only thing we know for certain is that millennials are just as diverse, unique and bizarre as everyone else. So why is it that marketers pay such close attention to these dense generalizations?

It goes without saying that generational differences exist, but attuning your marketing strategy based off of the generalization of a massive group of people is a thing of the past. Let’s face it, the foolproof marketing and advertising gimmicks that worked 50 years ago just don’t cut it anymore.

Reshaping the Marketing Landscape

Today, technology has changed much more than the way we communicate, it has systematically altered everything we do. From buying behavior to where we get our next meal, technology is arguably the largest driving influence on behavior.

How does this apply to marketing? By utilizing the data and technology that is right in front of us, we no longer need to rely on those dense generalizations from 50 years ago to market our products.  Instead of trying to appeal to a wide audience, e.g. “millennials” and hoping something sticks, data is available that will allow marketers to insert themselves into our daily lives. Thus, marketers go from buying audiences to buying people.

The future of marketing is an uncharted territory. Niche brands and specialized products will be marketing to the right people, based off of highly focused data. Mobile users will be provided with “suggestions” based off of their location and past behavior- offline. And this has already started to take place with Google Now. Google Now is an app that learns about your habits through highly focused data, then makes suggestions on what you might be interested in. Scary, right? However creepy it may seem, this intimate and individualized form of marketing is not only the future, it’s happening now.

So, can we stop trying to “figure out” who millennials are? Instead of obsessing over this dreamt up group of people, let’s curate a marketing strategy that relies on data.  Let’s not allow history to repeat itself, ay?

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