CHICAGO: Marketers need to look well beyond demographics if they want to engage with millennials and members of Gen Z, according to insights from BuzzFeed, the online media company.

Nick Lanzafame, Director/Strategic Insights and Data Standards at BuzzFeed, discussed this topic during a session at the 2017 TMRE in Focus event held by KNect365.

“Niche, weird, and one-off identities are the new drivers of the mainstream … It’s the norm to be radical,” he said. (For more details, read WARC’s exclusive report: How marketers can engage Gen Y and Gen Z: Insights from BuzzFeed.)

In response, marketers should reconsider their reliance on demographic targeting for the millennial and Gen Z audiences, and seek to engage with these consumers in nuanced ways. “Stop targeting and start understanding,” advised Lanzafame.

A study conducted by BuzzFeed, including a survey and data from content consumers, built on this theme. It found, for instance, that 80% of its audience believe at least one demographic trait – such as gender or sexuality – falls on a spectrum.

Drilling down into the research results, the analysis revealed that a majority of millennial respondents agree there is no longer a gender norm.

More broadly, fully 76% of Gen Y consumers concur that is normal to be to be “radical”, when this term is defined as “a refusal to accept the status quo”.

Lanzafame also encouraged the conference delegates to question their assumptions for other cohorts, too – with mothers being at the top of that list.

BuzzFeed’s top-performing content for this group, for example, frequently has nothing to do with parenting issues at all. “They aren’t really reading ‘mom’ content,” he said.

“BuzzFeed readers don’t have one, singular identity. They come to content that isn’t always exclusive to their primary traits.”

In reacting to these types of learnings, the imperative for marketers inevitably extends beyond attempts to engage with simplified segments of consumers.

“Focus on the individual: How do you tap into individuals and their passions? Marketing can help create identity and unite fragmented groups,” said Lanzafame.

In considering “the end of demographics,” he also urged brand custodians to explore online communities and other digital hubs where like-minded individuals connect with one another.

“If you see something,” said Lanzafame, “you can go find out what it is and find people in your own backyard who are doing it, and connect with others.”

Data sourced from WARC