Personalised Direct Marketing

Why “Marketing to Millennials” won’t work

Written by Jacky Hobson
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Originally published
April 29 2019,
July 3 2020

I was recently asked to talk about “Marketing to Millennials” at an event. I was happy to. Easy, I thought. After all, there’s hardly been a more talked-about, written-about (perhaps even complained-about!) generation; all of which should have provided a wealth of material for me. As I set to work on my presentation though I became less convinced. 


Who are they?

Sometimes referred to as Generation Y, Millennials sit not surprisingly after Generation X and precede Generation Z.  Essentially those born in the early 1980s to around 2000 though, depending on who you ask, these dates are fairly fluid. And they tend to get a bad rap. Labels like “entitled”, “spoiled” and “self-centred” are often levelled at them but is it right to characterise an entire generation in this way, or are Millenials just as diverse as the generations that came before them?



Marketing segmentation is defined as “the process of dividing a market of potential customers into groups, or segments, based on different characteristics.” When we didn’t know better or didn’t have the technology or ability to drill down further, slicing and dicing our databases into chunks to target those we believed would respond similarly to marketing strategies and to those who share traits was deemed acceptable.

We could create campaigns and messaging, tailoring these to broadly appeal. However, assuming that all those born within a certain date range are a homogenous bunch of people that demographically at least all “look” the same could still leave us wide-of-the mark.


Then came personalisation

In his landmark work “How to make friends and influence people”, Dale Carnegie propounded the theory that using someone’s name endeared them to you because “a person's name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.  For some marketers that simple addition of a name to piece of direct mail or e-shot sufficed, they believed that that passed muster as personalisation and should be enough to increase response rates. We now know better.


The rise of the individual

Calling out my name, whether across a room or on a piece of print, may be enough to make me take notice. It does grab my attention. Holding my interest, engaging me and initiating a conversation though takes more. I’m not simply a name, there are other things that make me me! For example, if I’m an existing customer of yours you’ll know of my preferences, purchasing history, buying patterns, perhaps even sizing and style choices. Using those to bespoke communications with me treats me as an individual, not simply a data record. And, if it’s my custom and cash you’re after, it’s the least you can do.


Why “Marketing to Millennials” won’t work

While they might share some characteristics – good and bad – individual Millennials probably have more differences than they do things in common. Ignoring those differences and their uniqueness will make our marketing vanilla and won’t engage them.  Because as Carnegie also said, “Talk to someone about themselves and they'll listen for hours”


If you’re looking to individualise your print and create unique pieces that properly engage, talk to us. We have the technology and know-how to make that happen!

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