As marketers we are always looking for ways to stay relevant to the changing demographics and tastes of our customers. But lately many have become obsessed with catering to the millennial market at the expense of other customer segments.
Don’t get me wrong, catering to a market and understanding the needs of that market is a critical part of staying in business. Take for example the case of Whole Foods and the launch of their new chain of 365 stores. The new store concept is built around the millennial market, with simple no frills design, integrated technology, and low prices. However, they are not doing away with their original stores (yet) nor are they completely shunning other age groups in pursuit of millennials.
However, other brands have abandoned existing customers in pursuit of the coveted millennial market and with disastrous results. Even entertainment isn’t immune. Take for example the case of the television series “Longmire.” The series, which began on the A&E network, outperformed its competitors “Mad Men” and “Justified” with an average of 5.6 million viewers. Yet the show was cancelled because the network wanted to target younger viewers. Older viewers responded, commenting how angry they were to be undervalued as a demographic, even though they were THE primary consumers of the show. Many discontinued viewing the network altogether. Unfortunately, their outrage did little to sway the network and the show was eventually sold to Netflix.
The response of older viewers highlights a key point—millennials aren’t always the core demographic of a product or service. Shunning loyal customers in pursuit of a single segment only makes sense if millennials are the primary consumers of your brand. For many companies millennials are not the core consumer. In some cases they aren’t a consumer at all.
The urge to market to millennials is driven by the fact that millennials are the largest age demographic. Being the largest age demographic doesn’t automatically mean they are the target for your business. At least not yet. For some products and services, millennials truly won’t become the core demographic for another 10-30 years. For these companies, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers ARE their current demographic. If these are your customers, don’t ignore them. Balance your millennial marketing efforts with marketing to your other key age groups and focus on those who are loyal and consistent consumers first, no matter how old they are.