Millennials are the market segment of the moment

by Keith Nunes
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KANSAS CITY — As the chief executives of publicly-traded food and beverage companies took the stage in Boston this past week at the Barclays Back-To-School Consumer Conference many had one target audience in mind – millennials. Not since baby boomers has one market segment received so much attention.

Steve Hughes, chief executive officer of Boulder Brands, said his company is trying to develop product lines that are “millennial magnets.” Deanie Elsner, chief marketing officer of Kraft Foods Group, said her company is tracking three key consumer segments: low income, Hispanics and millennials, and she defined millennial consumers as tech savvy and in search of minimally processed foods.

There is little doubt millennials may be perceived as an attractive target audience, but marketers must heed the lessons learned when baby boomers were the target audience of the moment. These are not homogeneous groups; they are demographics with age ranges that cover numerous stages of life, all of which have a direct impact on the types of food and beverages they may purchase.

This past March, for example, the Pew Research Center published a report about millennials and pegged the demographic as ranging in age from 18 to 33. In the report’s footnotes, it was noted that the report focused solely on millennial adults and that “the youngest millennials are in their teens and no chronological end point has been set for this group yet.”

It is critical for any marketer looking at this market to further define what life stage they are targeting – teen, single adult, married adult, married adult with children, etc. Each of these life stages, not to mention income levels and ethnicity, is unique and how consumers within each segment respond to marketing messages will directly relate back to their current experiences.

There are some commonalities among millennials as the demographic is loosely defined, most notably the prevalence of technology in their daily lives. But this is a trait that will fade as technology becomes more prevalent in the lives of all consumers.

There are numerous opportunities to be found in marketing to consumers who fall within the millennial demographic, but trying to engage all of them may prove disappointing. This is a very diverse group and their needs and wants will have more to do with their life stage than what age range they fall within.
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