Author Zach Robbins is the co-founder and CEO at Leadnomics.
If you've read anything about marketing to Millennials lately, you've probably encountered musings on the various personas these young adults manifest. Marketers and advertisers across the web have been enlightening us about segmentations and archetypes of the Millennial generation that may sound ridiculous upon first glance, but: "This is the first generation of its kind!" "They have so much power!" "We need to understand them, or else!"
You've probably read about "Boss Babes" or "Boomerangs," but it hasn't stopped there. To give you an idea, here's a list of some of the most elusive Millennial archetypes we've seen outlined by marketers, who apparently could have a major influence on the future of your business:
1. The Beaugrammer
Not to be confused with the Brogrammer, who is heavily interested in technology, gaming and sports, the Beaugrammer is focused more on technology, gaming and romance. Beaugrammers are ambitious go-getters who thrive in innovative industries, collaborative teams and Nicholas Sparks book clubs. Their desks tend to be cluttered with Red Bull cans, action figures and freshly picked flowers.
2. The Rugrat
You may have heard that nostalgia can be used as an effective marketing strategy for Millennials because they enjoy using things like fashion and modern tech to mimic past aesthetics. However, there is a subset of Millennials whose attachment to the past is stronger than using the sepia filter on all photos: the Rugrat. The Rugrat's diet consists of Kraft brand food and Capri Suns. Rugrats are fun-loving yet determined individuals, as showcased by their Bop It high scores and impressive Beanie Baby collections.
3. The Aerial Foodie
We know the Millennial "foodies" as those who view dining out as an event, and prefer to quench their thirst for adventure through exotic culinary experiences. The aerial foodie is a particular breed, characterized by their photographs exclusively of "food from above." Aerial foodies are meticulous, focused individuals who cannot be bothered with random experimentation, no matter how "artsy." Ever come across a beautiful Instagram overlooking symmetrical cups of black coffee, or showing a bird's-eye view of perfectly mismatched bowls of fresh fruit? Most likely the work of an aerial foodie.
4. The Instaluster
Instalusters are free-spirited Millennials who enjoy the gypsy, bohemian lifestyle -- but only as it pertains to music festivals and street fairs. Although there is a 93 percent chance that "Wanderlust" is included in their Twitter or Instagram bio, most Instalusters have never actually been outside of the country, but would list Coachella as an "out-of-body experience." And don't be fooled by their homemade granola bars or bare feet -- Instalusters always have the latest iPhone and wearable technology to best capture their rugged, bohemian lifestyle.
5. The Board Hoard
You may have heard of the "social media exuberant," or a Millennial who collects items and experiences via social media, and then tells others what to do or buy. Marketers keep a close watch on these individuals, as they tend to be generational trendsetters with widespread influence. The danger comes when a marketer thinks they've found an exuberant who is actually a "Board Hoard." Board Hoards are social media projectors, or those who could be living in a dimly lit basement surrounded by cats and old pizza boxes, but you would never know by looking at their hundreds of beautifully curated Pinterest boards. With Board Hoards among us, marketers cannot assume that every time their product is included in a "4th of July DIY Dreams" board, that it is the work of a true influencer.
Breaking It Down: Why Archetypes Are Irrelevant for Millennials
Yes, some of these personas may be hyperbolic, but the point remains the same. Marketers' desperate desire to understand the Millennial generation has resulted in some ridiculous generalizations about this population, along with advice on how businesses can leverage these stereotypes to convert Millennials into loyal customers.
There are a couple of problems with this approach. Beyond the fact that Millennials have embraced individuality in more ways than any other generation, advancements in technology have also brought us to a place in marketing and advertising where targeting by archetypes is an unsophisticated approach.
Technology such as behavioral targeting, addressable TV and programmatic buying are making it easier to target individual people, families and communities through their specific interests and life experiences. Broad age groups and other segmentations will become obsolete as advanced technology and better data enable us to buy micro-moments in peoples' lives where ads can have real-time relevancy. As tracking and measurement technology continues to improve for mobile devices, mobile ad spend will get closer to matching mobile usage. In-app advertising combined with better data will enable marketers to send their messages within specific, relevant contexts, such as when the consumer is in the grocery store, or the moment they finish their final exams.
With addressable TV, marketers can pinpoint their target audiences by creating a household profile using data such as income, number of children, or car leases set to expire. They can then work with cable operators to determine the number of addressable-enabled households that fit their profile and serve commercials to just those homes. Programmatic buying allows advertisers to use artificial intelligence and data to bid on advertising inventory in real time. Through programmatic buying, advertisers are given the opportunity to show one specific ad, to one anonymous consumer, in one context, on one device.
The continued development of these technology systems means the continued decline of our dependence on marketing archetypes. I predict the companies that focus on individualized targeting and granular data will be more successful in sustaining their relevance among Millennials than those who focus on the distinctions between "Rugrats" and "Board Hoards."