Canada VS US: Marketing to Millennials

February 21, 2017
3 min read

For years, brands have exhausted resources in order to better understand the elusive – and often fickle – Millennial generation (consumers aged 25-34). Today, it seems that overall Millennials are finally feeling understood by marketers. However, Canadian Millennials are not necessarily feeling well-represented. Mintel’s Marketing to Millennials Canada 2017 report indicates that although half of 25-34 year old Canadians agree that marketers understand people their age, only a third see themselves portrayed in advertisements, suggesting a disconnect with how this age group perceives marketing efforts are resonating with them.

The same cannot be said for American Millennials as marketers are finding greater success connecting with the consumer segment. For starters, an overwhelming majority of US 25-34s feel that marketers understand people their age, while more than half see themselves in the people portrayed in advertisements, revealing that resonance is much stronger with the American consumer.

Marketers have more to work with in the US

These differences may be due, in part, to the way in which 25-34s in the respective countries see themselves. Despite the popular stereotypes of younger generations being entitled, 25-34s in both Canada and the US primarily see themselves as being responsible (with Americans slightly more inclined towards this characteristic). And while Americans aged 25-34 also see themselves as compassionate and confident, Canadian Millennials are much less likely to see themselves as such.

For marketers, having three pillar characteristics to relate to rather than just the one means there is more to work with for the American 25-34-year-old consumer. Those looking to target Canadian 25-34s have to work a little bit harder at reflecting the different ways this segment defines being responsible, such as being financially independent and/or being young parents, in marketing efforts. For brands that straddle both countries, more may need to be done in order to better understand what ‘being responsible’ means to the older Canadian Millennial versus their American counterpart as the way the segments define this term may not necessarily be the same.

Canadian Millennials are more judgemental

Intuitively, marketers may lean towards showing ‘real Millennials’ in their ads. However, marketers need to be aware that unlike the US, Canadians aged 25-34 are much more critical and judgemental of their peers and they are much less likely than their American counterparts to give credit to other Millennials for being responsible. This is apparent in the lack of faith Canadian 25-34s have in their peers with regard to online reviews, where over three-quarters of American consumers aged 25-34 trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, compared to nearly three in five Canadians of the same age. This suggests that Canadians may have a harder time relating to their peers.

What we think

Brands targeting Canadian Millennials would do well to be clear about depicting the unique characteristics of their specific target audience. Using very particular characteristics to reflect sub-segments of this group (including ethnicity, hobby interests, etc.) should help give these consumers more points to anchor and relate to in marketing messages. What’s more, brands not only need to creatively find ways to prove to their shoppers who actually is buying their products, but also provide proof that they truly do see and understand who their shoppers actually are.

Carol Wong-Li is a Senior Lifestyle and Leisure Analyst at Mintel, researching and writing reports on the Canadian lifestyle and leisure industries. She incorporates her background in advertising and brand tracking to deliver actionable insights. Carol holds a Master of Arts in Sociology, specializing in Canadian Ethnic Relations from the University of Calgary.

Carol Wong-Li
Carol Wong-Li

Carol Wong-Li is Mintel’s Director of Consumers & Culture Reports.

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