Marketers who have based their messaging strategies on demographic data alone are wasting millions of dollars trying to reach Millennials like my friend Arnold and me. Today most marketers treat us exactly the same when messaging to us instead of trying to reach us as individuals and that’s a big mistake.

Because of my role in sales, I often hear marketing professionals claim during our conversations that they know who their customers are. When I ask for details, they often provide a pretty indistinct demographic profile. One example of these exchanges is a conversation I recently had with a B2C marketer (let’s call her Jill) from a very successful niche retailer. When Jill talked to me about her current customers she described them as American male millennials.

Her response surprised me for two reasons:

–  First, it was abundantly clear that her profile was far too generalized and only focused on customers from a demographic perspective

– Second, she didn’t have any information on what influenced her customers’ decision making process

I challenged Jill by asking what the profile she described actually told her about her customers on a personal level. At the time, I didn’t feel comfortable telling her that while both my friend Arnold and I fall within in her target customer group, I was unlikely to buy anything from her company while Arnold probably would.

The real proof of why this is comes from the differences between Arnold and me as individuals:

Arnold Me (Matt)
Prefers drinking hard cider Prefers drinking beer
Plays Video Games Hikes/Cycles
Smokes Cigarettes Does Not Smoke
Regularly uses Instagram  Regularly use Linkedin

My fashion choices include mostly business casual items while Arnold’s fashion choices are much more casual.  Arnold is financially responsible and lives within his means but he doesn’t do much long-term saving, while personal financial security is very important to me and I save a lot and borrow as little as possible as a result.  I also prefer to have a sit down meal whereas Arnold often opts for taquitos from 7/11…you get the picture.

While Arnold and I have a lot in common demographically, when it comes to buying habits, media consumption habits, and what defines our sense of self we are polar opposites. What’s important to remember is that no one buys a product based on their demographics alone.

I might buy a product because I think it will lead to positive recognition from friends and family or I think the product is fun and exciting.  In contrast, Arnold might not care about recognition from friends and family and instead buys products that are practical and sustainable.

Marketers need to know more about customers’ values and motivations in order to gain deeper engagement with their Millennial targets. It’s important to know attributes like what makes them get out of bed each morning and why they engage in specific hobbies in order to better connect with them from a messaging standpoint.

Every time a marketer sends me and Arnold the same advertisement, the odds are that the ad is being wasted on one of us. Knowing what messaging will appeal to each of us on a personal level increases the odds that the ads connect with us and get us to engage and eventually buy.

Who we are as people, as coworkers, as consumers, and as citizens is so much more than just which demographic box we check on paper. Today’s marketer should not be developing strategies based solely on a hunch driven from demographic profiling. It’s important to have a full profile of customers and market to them in a way that will resonate with their values, motivations, beliefs and purchase drivers.

Here at Resonate we offer powerful consumer intelligence and a real-time insights that help marketers more fully understand and connect with Millennials like me and Arnold based on the underlying motivations and values that drive our decisions to buy or support certain brands, products and causes. We’re here to help make sure that your messaging strategy is connecting with us as individuals in real time so that we both become loyal customers with you for life.

Matt Crush is Team Lead, Inside Sales at Resonate