How ‘Fake News’ Drives The Millennial Myth

Now, I’ve got nothing against Millennials. Two of my favourite people on the planet are part of this cohort (my daughters).

But what really pisses me off is how the hysteria over Millennials causes otherwise smart marketers to ignore the demographic and economic realities. Older consumers, Baby Boomers and beyond, are an equally (if not more) lucrative market. They are grossly underserved and largely misunderstood.

Millennial bullshit

Fake News

How can this be? One of the many reasons is down to ‘Fake News’ or at least, inaccurate reporting. This was beautifully demonstrated in an article by Bob Hoffman (A.K.A. The Ad Contrarian). He questioned the sense of a quote appearing in a major marketing industry online publication (The Drum) entitled Why direct-to-consumer companies are using Influencer generated content to win over the market. Here’s the quote;

“…… but the millennial generation who “have the most spending power of any generation” …….”

The Drum

If like me, you wonder where this nonsense comes from, rest easy. Mr Hoffman has donned his investigative hat and gone in search of the source. And here is the sad, staggering ‘trail of bullshit’ he uncovered;

  • In 2009, a book incorrectly predicted that millennial income would surpass baby boomer income by 2017.
  • In 2012, in a self-promotional pdf by a software company, this was misinterpreted to mean that millennials would have “more spending power than any other generation” by 2017.
  • A piece of “content” on an agency website, written by a “marketing strategist” 2 years out of college, used this quote from the software company to assert that millennials “will have the most spending power of any generation by 2018.
  • An article in Forbes used the assertion on that website to declare that, “By 2018, they (millennials) will have the most spending power of any generation.”
  • And then, the article in The Drum proclaimed that millennials “have the most spending power of any generation.”

In Hoffman’s own words “And that, my friend, is how in the slovenly and slipshod world of marketing, bullshit becomes a fact“.

There’s a book waiting to be written (it’s in my head) about how marketers missed the business opportunity of our times – the ageing consumer. Despite all the clear demographic and persuasive economic evidence. Articles that perpetuate the myths of millennial-might with inaccurate facts or even ‘fake news’ like this, are not helpful.

It’s Not An ‘Either/Or’ Issue

Many marketers believe that it’s a zero-sum game. Brands worry that if they pursue an older customer, they’ll somehow lose out with the younger crowd. Apple proves this notion is rubbish.

I argue that in an older world, it’s time to look beyond age as a means of consumer segmentation. The critical issues in defining consumer behaviour today are threefold;

  1. Life-stage – admittedly there’s an age-related component here but its more focussed around consumer needs than pure age or generations
  2. Attitudes and behaviour – these issues largely transcend age. Shocking as it may seem to younger people, most older folks don’t think they’re old at all!
  3. Physical – the issue that truly distinguishes older from younger consumers is the inevitable physical changes age delivers