segmentation

“Millennials” is so passé

It’s time for a new buzzword in segmentation. Historically, researchers segmented audiences by age, geography and income, e.g., Baby Boomers, Yuppies, Gen Xers and the holy grail of modern segmentation, Millennnials.

This method of targeting worked most effectively when there were three major media channels. Today, we have millions of programming channels targeted at millions of unique segments, so why do we continue to generalize into such broad stereotypes?

Digital media analytics can now tell you not only your customer’s age and GPS coordinates; they can also help you track and predict purchasing behaviors. I realize we have a lot of buzzwords to keep track of, but it’s time for a new segmentation term to track individual consumer who wants to buy your products, regardless of the group they belong to. Introducing a new segmentation system that we call “Behaviorals.”

Waste is no longer necessary if we use behavioral data. Imagine you have a cupcake business and your research shows you that Millennials love cupcakes. Your researcher comes up with a target demographic that reads something like “female, 24-34, household income of at least $150,000 and married with children.”

What if your Millennial woman is diabetic, or perhaps her child is? What if she’s on a diet? Behavioral targeting will filter these customers from your advertising. What if an outside-the-mark Baby Boomer loves cupcakes? A research-backed Millennial targeting system would miss that opportunity.

Today, we don’t spend months to build data that makes broad assumptions around stereotyped groups. We simply tell the “machine” to buy advertising that speaks to “cupcake lovers.” It’s a little more complicated than that, but not by much.

We need to be aware that we have a digital ecosystem that can define our behavior instead of broad generalities and stereotypes that we call “demographics.”

Research isn’t dead, but we need to stop treating it like it will give us insight that would outweigh in-market media tracking. We no longer need to use research to choose programming then let it run for months without testing. We let the programming results become the research that drives weekly and real-time optimization. Sometimes the most effective segmentation research is to simply run the test ads in market and optimize to the behaviors of the consumer.

This isn’t a new idea by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, not being adopted as a new way of life in marketing yet. It’s time to kill a few sacred cows. Let’s start by using the term “Millennial” less often.