Money & Business

Marketing Study: Think Beyond Millennials, Gen Z

By / Feb 28, 2019 (wundervisuals/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

The marketing agency Zenith lays out a useful contrarian take on ad targeting: We might be past the point where millennials and Generation Z are worth all the attention. So what do you target for instead?

It’s often accepted as common knowledge that the best way to target a potential audience is demographically—in other words, by age range.

Hence why you feel like you can’t get away from reading about millennials and Generation Z. But not everyone feels that looking at things that way is really doing the job anymore, and a new analysis from the agency Zenith argues that age demographics are downright passé when there are so many more targeting options out there.

In its new report, Generation Z is Not the Next Big Thing [PDF], Zenith lays out a case why age alone is no longer the right way to track audiences. Here’s the Cliffs Notes version: While it once was the case that targeting by demographics was difficult, it is now easy to do, thanks to the increasing use of mobile devices. It was a “revolution” in data-based marketing, but something surprising happened afterward.

“This same revolution has led to a fragmentation of audiences across multiple platforms and devices, making all audiences hard to reach through historic targeting approaches on traditional media,” the report states.

In other words, all this technology is changing our behavior, and it’s leading to different results from what we’ve been accustomed to in the past. Among them:

Income matters more than age. The report makes the case that younger adults don’t have nearly the level of disposable income as earlier generations due to a variety of factors (from student debt to challenges getting started in the workforce), something that many older audiences have in spades. On top of that, older audiences are becoming increasingly interested in reliving the joys of their youth. The lesson here, says Zenith, is to target in an “age-blind” manner, based on income and interest. “If we want to target disposable income, we should be looking at targeting people with the income, brand inclination, time, and space to enjoy the experience, irrespective of age, gender, or any other outdated targeting label,” the report argues.

The kids are alright. Often, it’s perceived that marketing needs to be edgy to attract younger audiences, and older ones are seen as more traditionalist. But Zenith’s report flips the model on its head, noting that the punks and slackers are of generations past, and younger generations aren’t afraid of staying on the straight and narrow—something it blames on more aggressive parenting. “Younger generations are becoming more conformist,” the report states. “These shifts can be seen in almost every developed country from U.S. to South Korea and are accelerating.” The report argues that aiming at disruptors means creating marketing for “rebellious attitudes and mindsets” instead of youth.

In addition, the report makes the case that taking a more “perennial” approach to marketing is the best way to reach desired audiences, no matter the age group.

“Just because millennials came of age in this century does mean not that they are [the] only ones who ‘get it,’” the report concludes.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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