Millennials: Are Gen Y Women an Untapped Market?

05/20/2015 08:20 am ET | Updated May 20, 2016

Today, Millennials (individuals born after 1980) are a highly targeted advertising market. It's not hard to see why brands are vying for attention from this generation. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 18-to-34 year old Americans represent nearly 23.5 percent of the population, making them the largest demographic in the U.S.

However, many brands pursuing this new generation of consumers often forget one simple truth: Not all millennials are male. Yet, much of today's messaging tends to be "bro-based" or male centric, leaving out a diverse, demanding, and potentially lucrative market segment: The Millennial women. You don't think so? Think of all the "Be a Manly Man" Doctor Pepper 10 commercials or Old Spice's latest "Smell like a Man" campaign. These are just a couple of what seems like a barrage of marketing messages with male undertones (and female heroine) that are directed at the general Millennial crowd. And don't even get me *started* on the Carl Jr.'s ads!

Before you start thinking I'm here to discuss gender bias in today's marketing and advertising world -- I'm not. My point is that Millennial women, despite being financially strong, independent, and wielding more power than ever in terms of purchase decisions, are not being targeted by brands and marketers.

It is a common practice for brands to target women only for women-centric products. Generally, brands aren't focused on engaging female consumers. A recent study on Millennial women's relationship with brands reveals today's female consumers demand significantly high levels of engagement from brands. Are they getting it? No. This is where brands are ignoring billions of dollars in potential revenue opportunities. How should brands and marketers influence this untapped cohort? How do they connect with the Gen Y woman?

Understand that "Millennial" is not a single group

The biggest mistake marketers make is treating "Millennials" as a single group. Women from diverse age-groups may fall under the category of Millennials. From high-schoolers to women hitting their mid-30s, all of these women belong to the Millennial class. Naturally, they need to be marketed to in different ways.

Inspire the Millennial woman

As a whole, Millennials like to associate themselves with difference-making brands, causes, and trends. The Millennial woman wants to be inspired by the brands she chooses. She seeks engagement with positive brand images that resonate with her, and make her feel good about supporting them. Hollow marketing messages don't work with her; brands that want to attract the attention of the millennial woman need to layer their campaigns with inspirational messages.

She appreciates brands that make her the "hero." So make her the hero.

According to a recent finding, 67 percent of women "appreciate brands that make [them] the hero vs. themselves [the brand] the hero." When it comes to engaging Millennial women, brands that talk about themselves won't cut it.

Focus on crushing stereotypes

Women are increasingly entering spaces traditionally considered to be the "man's world." More women are earning graduate degrees, making their way to top corporate roles, owning businesses, and are the bread winners for their families. Brands need to break the mold and portray women in these new roles. For instance, paper towel ads often show mothers with children; however, a woman who spills coffee on her dress rushing on her morning commute or in a boardroom meeting also needs paper towels, doesn't she? Enough with the stereotypes, advertisers.

With well-paid jobs, more spending power, and better lifestyles, women are an emerging financial force. Brands that leverage this group are sure to compete more profitably in the near future.