Marketing to Millennials: What Those Crazy Kids Are Thinking

Ah, the Millennials. 

It's the group that marketers these days are trying to figure out how to “get.”  They’re expected to spend about $10 trillion dollars in their lifetimes, so no wonder marketers are so interested in them!

They’re a wily bunch for sure, but we can work with them. 

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Millennials are folks aged about 17-34 and they’re often referred to as “digital natives.” They were born immersed in digital media and never knew the dark days before the Internet, when we picked up the phone to share information with our friends, and we had to actually look things up in books or ohmygosh remember facts instead of Googling stuff. 

But are they so different from other generations?  Yes and no.

It’s actually not even fair to be lumping an entire generation together into one stereotype. Not all of them are gadget obsessed. Not all of them care about sustainability and the environment. They’re a diverse group of individuals just like any other generation.

But, they do have some stuff in common; so, being careful not to over generalize an entire generation of people, let’s talk about what they might share and what that means for marketers.

Millennials and traditional marketing

It makes sense that since this generation tends to be superconnected though social media, that that would be the only way to get through to them.  It is a way, a big one, and we’ll talk about that in a second, but they also enjoy getting things via direct mail.

That’s right.  They like the mail!

This seems like surprising information, but direct mail actually does influence them to buy things.  In fact, according to a study done by Nielsen, it’s among the biggest influencers! Combine that knowledge with a little data mining and you’ve got yourself a winning combination. However, this generation is not easily impressed, so it’s important to make sure your direct marketing is personalized and that you’re actually offering them things they want.  They don’t want a free carpet cleaning, so don’t even bother.

You know what else they like?


Reports of the death of email have been largely exaggerated. It turns out that email is also an effective way to reach the Millennials.  According to a Nielsen study, more than 70% of Millennials said they enjoy getting emails from retailers. They’re also likely to click on paid search ads and follow a brand on Twitter and Facebook.

Millennials and social media

So a great way to get the attention of your average Millennial is through social media, right?



You have to remember that they’ve got scads of Facebook friends and Twitter followers and their feeds are probably going to be clogged with updates from all of those contacts as well. They’re only going to see your message a small percentage of the time. This doesn’t mean don’t bother with social media, it just means you need to diversify your methods of engagement if you’re going to get to them.

Even the largest most successful brands on social media with tons of engagement, product quality and brand loyalty have to work awfully hard in many ways to get the Millennial’s attention.

Short Attention Spans

A study by Time Inc. reveals that Millennials switch attention between devices (TV, tablets, cell phones, computers, magazines, etc.) every two minutes. That’s 27 times per hour!

It’s hard to get someone emotionally engaged in anything within two minutes. 

That sounds like bad news in terms of trying to keep their attention, and it is, but it’s also good news because it means that you have many, many ways to get to them.  That said, any old thing won’t do for these guys.  They’re hard to impress, obviously, and since they move so quickly from thing to thing, whatever you do must really grab them.

Millennials and ethics

Yes, they’re young and many of them are either working through college or climbing out from student loan debt, but Millennials aren’t always looking for a great deal on price.

They depend on their friends for advice on which products to buy, but they also read consumer review websites, blogs, and follow “expert” advice.  These things all factor into their decision-making, but they also look at the values of a company.

If they like your brand story and think your company is ethical and delivers a good product at a fair price, you’re in.  Even if a particular company makes the less expensive product, they might actually go for the one that gets the best review and comes from a company with a brand story they can get on board with.

Loyalty, thy name is Millennial

This group is also pretty loyal according to a whitepaper called The 8095 Exchange: Millennials,Their Actions Surrounding Brands, and the Dynamics of Reverberation by Edelman.   70% of the Millennials surveyed say they always come back to the brands they love.

So, they may be hard to impress and have short attention spans, but if you diversify your marketing efforts and put yourself in front of them in all the places they hang out, you’ll have a solid strategy for marketing to Millennials.  Being omnipresent is always a good thing anyway, whether you’re marketing to this group or any other.

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