Are terms like ‘millennial’ actually useful?

Terms like millennial, Gen Z and Gen X are frequently bandied about, but are these demographic groupings actually meaningful to marketers?


Just 7% of marketers believe terms like Gen X, Gen Z and millennial are a very effective means of segmentation, according to an exclusive Marketing Week. In fact, 55% say such demographic groupings are not very effective or not effective at all.

Vodafone head of youth and mass segments Daniel Lambrou explains he would not use such terms to define behaviours or people.

“I wouldn’t use them as part of my marketing strategy, but I would use the generic terms in conversation if I’m trying to articulate a particular point about an age group,” he states.

Similarly, MoneySuperMarket’s head of customer insight, Jonathan Wood, disagrees with “stereotyping” people into a certain group based on the year they were born.

“Attitudes, needs, behaviours and motivations – not to mention life stages – are all very diverse and so, for us, it does not make sense to group people into a collective, just because they happen to be born within a few years of each other,” he adds.

Marketing and insight director at Digital Cinema Media (DCM) Zoe Jones explains that her team avoids what she sees as overly broad labels such as Gen Z or millennial. When researching the 16- to 34-year-old audience, her team was careful to acknowledge the significant differences between someone born in 1984 and 2002.

“There were some interesting differences within the 16 to 34 audience when we looked specifically at the younger end of the spectrum – those aged 16 to 24,” says Jones.

“Social video becomes more ‘binge-watching’ than just something spontaneous; live TV at a broad, non-programme-specific level, is more frequently associated as ‘low attention’; and perceptions of YouTube were more positive.”



There are 2 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Jon Rolph 16 Apr 2019

    As one who sits squarely in the middle of the age range most would consider “millennials’, I agree that use of such a term for market segmentation is pointless. You’ll have to go a long way to find two millennials, or two Gen X’ers, or two Gen Z’ers even, who both fit neatly into the same segmentation categories.

    It’s almost (read: exactly) like saying “I’m going to target individuals aged 19-34 because they all like and want the same things.” No marketer in their right minds would consider that a reasonable segment.

  2. Matthew Connaughton 9 May 2019

    Absolutely not. ‘Millennial’ is an inherently anti-marketing word and that shouldn’t even be up for debate.

    There is no definition of the word. If you think I’m wrong, look around – I had to in a previous job and the results were not kind to marketers. It’s pure comedy.

    There are loads of conflicting definitions of what a millennial is, each one in turn shifts the age range slightly compared with the previous, while inferring ever more fluffy characterisations about the preferences for that demographic’s digital channels and their definitely not mythical, honest, attitudes towards things like TV programmes.

    And so, if you take all of the conflicting, ever-expansive ‘definitions’ used – and since nobody agrees on what a millennial is, you have to – it’s just …idiots (marketers) describing “people”, it captures that much of the workforce/people under 50/nearly everyone/someone please make it stop.

    A Millennial can be someone in their early forties or someone at the time of writing this, taking their GCSE exams. How or why marketers need it explaining to them that those are not the same people is depressing.

    Go back to your training; that means there is no segment anymore. In fact there’s barely relatable segments contained within what the word captures. This in turn offers no way apply the word, rendering it useless for 100% of marketers – and that’s why it’s useless.

    Please someone, make it stop.

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