Stereotyping age

A recent post by Thomas Hobbs on highlights information brought to light from a study that claims millennials and older generations share many of the same characteristics, and warns brands to stay away from advertising based on stereotypes of age groups.

The study, undertaken by the Age of No Retirement by Flamingo & Tapestry Research, points out that in Britain, nine out of 10 people believe there is too much generational stereotyping in the media. Georgina Lee, the founder of Age of No Retirement, says compartmentalised thinking from brands, and the use of terms such as Generation X and millennials, do more harm than good to their reputations.

Not everybody agrees with that statement. Catherine Bothma, MD at HDI, says a one-size-fits-all approach does not work with these consumers. “Of course millennials are different from other consumers,” she argues. “Not only are they more tech savvy, they are prosumers whose ideas around media consumption are different from those of other generations.”

Bothma points out that brands such as Nike that have invested time and money into understanding this market are reaping the benefits. Nike is a favourite in the Sunday Times Generation Next study, she says, because from pop culture to street wear and the urban look, the brand’s strategy caters for its entire market.

In direct opposition, the study claims people are tired of being categorised according to their age, and says that brands that do this will risk losing out on major business opportunities because they are patronising their audiences. Lee maintains that avoiding age stereotypes gives brands a wider appeal. Her company’s study showed that there are significant similarities between older and younger consumers, reports: 89% of young people and 84% of older consumers, for instance, share the belief that the Internet is a major part of their lives. Moreover, 77% of people across generations say the pace of life is too hectic while 83% feel that they are different from others in their age groups. Interestingly, 83% of the study’s respondents mention that they would like to break away from age-based social circles and would rather interact with people of various generations.

In an era when consumers wish to be treated in a more personal way by brands, Bothma cautions against depicting all millennials in the same way. Avoid such stereotyping, she says. Instead, brands should develop personal relationships with these consumers. Millennials are diverse and unique, and they demand that brands understand them. “A homogenised strategy is not the way to go if you want to connect with this market,” she warns.

The big take-out: HDI’s Catherine Bothma disagrees with a recent British study that found that consumers no longer wish to be stereotyped according to their age. Millennials, she says, demand a personalised experience from brands.