Are You Making the Millennial Mistake?

A new analysis from GfK MRI's Survey of the American Consumer® suggests that marketers may be leaving sales dollars on the table if they treat Millennials as a single group with uniform tastes and desires.

In the study, GfK MRI divided women in the Millennial generation into two age groups – ages 20 to 24 and 25 to 37 – and found that the cohorts often have very different attitudes and behaviors when it comes to fashion. These disparities could impact the way advertisers and agencies in fashion approach Millennials.

Younger Millennial women are more likely than the older group to be Fashion Category Influencers (FCIs) – meaning that they are deeply familiar with fashion, make recommendations across broad social networks, are highly trusted, and are word-of-mouth-leaders. "Pre-25" Millennial women are 81 percent more likely than all women to be FCIs, while the older female Millennials are 52 percent more likely.

The younger Millennial group is also more likely to care about making impressions and choose trends over quality. (See Table 1.) To remain trendy, they are more likely to refresh their wardrobes at the start of each season, and rely on magazines for fashion information.

Table 1. Millennial Women and Shopping


"Agree completely" with




Index All





I am loyal to only a few fashion
brands and stick with them.


    11%     105     138     93

I buy new clothes at the
beginning of each season.

    8%     134     164     123

I'll buy trendy clothes even if
they're not the highest quality.

    8%     142     159     136
While younger Millennial women have more influence, the older group has more dollars – and they are willing to spend them. GfK MRI found that, compared to all women, 25- to 37-year-olds index at 153 for spending $3,000 or more a year on clothes. They are also more likely than their younger female peers to look for customization in fashion and to use shopping/retail apps on tablets.

"Thinking of Millennials as a single target can blur distinctions marketers need to understand to make smart decisions," said Catherine Saraniti, senior vice president at GfK MRI. "In fashion, the younger Millennials are more trend conscious and eager to update their wardrobes with each season, while their elders want apparel that is more tailored to their specific tastes and are willing to spend more to get it."

Younger Millennials are more likely than older ones to be heavy Internet users, and slightly more likely to be heavy magazine readers. The younger group has an index of 167 for reading women's fashion magazines and of 126 for saying they rely on magazines to stay up to date on fashion. Older Millennials, on the other hand, are 13 percent more likely to have heavy exposure to outdoor media.

The two Millennial groups also use social media differently. The older set is more likely than 20 to 24 year olds to rate or review a product or service via social media (indices of 158 versus 119), while younger Millennials are 111 percent more likely to "follow" or become a "fan" of something or someone. The younger group is also considerably more likely to be receptive to mobile advertising.

GfK MRI's unmatched consumer database is derived from continuous interviews with approximately 25,000 U.S. adults each year. As part of the survey, respondents record their consumption of some 6,500 products in nearly 600 categories and provide details about their lifestyles and attitudes.
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