After further review, gut instinct proved correct. There are multiple nuanced segments within the millennial segment, long-worshipped by marketers.

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  • Adam Pierno
  • Director of Brand Strategy

The Great Millennial Mirage

For ten years we have been reading about the growing size and purchasing power of the generation known as Millennials. Those people roughly 20-34 years old have been sought after by marketers and the subject of hundreds of research studies. Brands want to understand how to reach the fickle and media savvy millennial consumer.

Turns out there isn’t one millennial consumer.

Santy has conducted studies on consumers within the millennial age group and their behaviors relating to dining, consumer packaged goods and loyalty. In the presentation of such information, it’s often simpler to group together generalities. In reality, we can see clear striations in the data between key segments of survey respondents amongst these critical ages.

Fourteen years is a large span. Just using logic, I can confidently tell you that a 22-year-old college graduate is going to have a different income, perspective and taste than most 32 year olds. Now let’s assume that the 32-year-old female subject is married. Do you think she may think a bit differently than a recent graduate? What if we learned that she was expecting her second child?

Of course we understand on a literal level that people we know across this spectrum have different needs and motivations. But as marketers, we are conditioned to seek answers and look for opportunity on a large scale.

Millennials grocery habits

For example, in our study we looked at the grocery shopping habits of people from 20-34 and saw vast differences in attitudes. We saw that people in their early-twenties are more likely to consider convenience stores as a vital part of their grocery purchase plan. This makes sense as they may buy fewer items per trip and those items are simpler and more basic in nature.

But as we continue to examine the data towards the higher end of the age spectrum an interesting trend emerges. The likelihood of a shopping trip at the convenience store increases for people with more children. We theorize that this is because they take frequent grocery trips, which are each shorter in duration.

This is a huge distinction. On premise, the entire pool of millennial respondents indicated they shop at convenience stores at a level of only 10%. But seeing the age and life-stages at which those numbers are more heavily skewed, it shapes our strategy towards messaging and partnerships specifically targeted to the young and to the time-compressed parents. It forces conversation about why we see shifts in these patterns, and test developed theories. This is why we have returned to a focus based on millennial life stage.

Life stages

Within life stages, we are able to segment audiences by traditional demo-, psycho- and techno-graphics. Imagine drawing these lines amongst an initial pool of 60 million people, all presumed to be the same. Doing so would miss a tremendous amount of nuance and volumes of opportunity for relevance. So many marketers look to studies on millennials as if the key to unlock almost a quarter of the nation’s thinking will be revealed.

Making intelligent recommendations for our clients means understanding that there are differences between a single 28-year-old male and a married 28-year-old male with children. Consumption will be driven by different motivators. Loyalty will be based on wholly different things. Technology usage and adoption will be different.

We have shifted focus to understanding the nuance of life stages and the breakpoints for smaller behaviors that tend to cross age and demographic lines. It’s critical for clients that we understand the real ways in which people grow into and out of behaviors related to their brands; or to the problems of life stages that require an interaction with their brands.

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