Generation We, the Net Generation, Echo Boomers - creative juices weren't exactly flowing when it came to naming the demographic that roughly comprises people born between the early 1980s and 2000. In the end, we settled on Millennials. It's not great, but it definitely beats Echo Boomers.
For some time now, marketers have been grappling with how best to engage this audience, which, in the US alone, is forecast to spend $1.4 trillion annually by 2020.
Which brands have been getting it right and who's been missing the mark in 2016? I take a look below.
Snapchat success stories
Millennials' love for social media is well-known and any brand worth its salt now has an active presence on the major networks, but who is really standing out from the crowd
Look no further than Kylie Jenner. The youngest of the Kardashian/Jenner clan, the 19-year-old has made Snapchat a foundation (see what I did there?) of the marketing strategy for her beauty company Kylie Cosmetics. From flash sales to teasing a new product launch, Jenner's use of Snapshot Stories ticks all the boxes for Millennial marketing. She engages with her audience on their own terms, satisfies their desire for short, easily-consumable content and creates a sense of exclusivity that makes customers feel like more than just consumers. Jenner isn't alone in making effective use of Snapchat though, with the likes of Taco Bell, Dominos and Gatorade all enjoying success on the platform this year.
Recent months have also seen brands successfully tap into Millennials' love of nostalgia, the most obvious example being Pokémon Go. An mfour survey found 83 per cent of the game's players are Millennials, with two-thirds having played a Pokémon game before. For many of these people, their last experience of the franchise was as children when the Pokémon craze first swept through the western world in the late 90s. By adding the Pokémon brand to a successful framework that had already been established via the existing game Ingress, Pokémon Go has successfully tapped into this nostalgia to create one of the success stories of 2016.
The likes of Adidas, Microsoft and Manchester City are just some the brands that have also tried to take advantage of nostalgia by harking back to their past in one way or another recently. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion for people of all ages, but it has been suggested Millennials are particularly keen to look back to the past with a warm glow thanks to the greater amount of information/media they have been exposed to in their lifetimes, combined with a desire to escape from an uncertain economic climate.
Misjudging the mood and trying too hard
Nostalgia can be a powerful Millennial marketing tool, but which brands have launched campaigns they'd like to permanently consign to history? Budweiser's decision to re-label its cans 'America' this summer has gone down like a lead balloon with Millennials, many of whose patriotic sentiment is running rather low thanks to one of the most divisive election campaigns in the nation's history. In a June survey, only 16 per cent of Americans said they would consider Budweiser the next time they buy a beer. Perhaps the company should have taken a lead from the nostalgia book and revived its classic Whassup? Ad of the late 90s?
One of the biggest Millennial marketing pitfalls brands can encounter is simply trying too hard. There's a fine line between demonstrating you're in tune with a young audience and coming across as a middle-aged man vainly attempting to get down with the kids. A perfect example of this gross error was demonstrated in an unlikely place: the EU referendum. The #votin campaign, which aimed to promote the benefits of EU membership to young people, was widely panned for its condescending tone, as well as an apparent vendetta against the letter G. With estimates of the turnout of 18 to 24-year-old voters as low as 36 per cent, it seems #votin failed to strike a chord.
The next generation
While marketers are still grappling with the challenge of appealing to Millennials, they will soon need to turn their attention to the next demographic set to enter the consumer market - Generation Z. Roughly defined as people born from 2000 onwards, the oldest members of this demographic will turn 16 this year and will no doubt pose a whole new set of challenges for brands looking to capture their attention.
However, amidst all this talk of Generations X, Y and Z, it's important to never lose sight of the fact that every single one of your customers are individuals. By all means, consider your customers' age when devising a strategy, but remember there is no substitute for getting to know the real people behind your target audience, be it through social listening, customer experience mapping or data analytics. Get to know your customers and they'll soon get to know you regardless of whether they're a Millennial, Echo Boomer or Gen Z'er.