Marketing to Millennials: demystifying a generation

May 14, 2012

Reaching the Millennial generation

Generation Y, also known as Millennials, were born between 1980 and 1995, and already outnumber Baby Boomers and out power their parents in spending power, so marketers are salivating over how to reach this generation who values the opinions of strangers online equally to the opinions of their friends and family. How does a brand market to Millennials in this environment? The first step is understanding the most common traits of the generation.

The most obvious trait is that Millennials grew up with technology, so they are hard to impress by touting that you have a website, no, that is expected of your business. Many technologies are taken for granted, and in some cases, being shed over time, like television, which most Millennials do not watch, rather stream through the web. It is not uncommon for a Millennial to own multiple technological devices or to have paid a great deal of money on them, and the generation average $24.74 spent on coffee drinks, having grown up with a Starbucks on every corner, meanwhile their professional counterparts over the age of 45 spend an average of $14.15 per week.

The generation is known to be altruistic, generous, concerned with the environment and their impact on the world, but are also impatient and value a fast experience over a lengthy customer service endeavor. Born as technology multi-taskers, the generation is wired to be constantly in a hurry and struggles to pay 100 percent attention to any one task, and are conditioned to receive thousands, if not millions of brand messages every day, so cutting through the noise is increasingly difficult. Almost all Millennials are on Facebook, and the majority have “liked” brands they favor on the social network.

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Some say that Millennials have a sense of entitlement, and although few studies support that thus far, it is easy to see how a generation where every child got a trophy for participating is struggling to find their comfort zone in the work force. For this and many other reasons, it is not uncommon for Millennials to become entrepreneurs as many do not feel that they fit into a corporate structure.

As a creative generation, marketers are having to find more creative ways to reach these buyers, many resorting to humor. Some are saying that Millennials require advertisements to be flashy and shiny, but the rise of the Apple products should show you that the generation can actually be quite minimalist.

Millennials are also a moving target for marketers, because the American Dream has shifted. Millennials are not ashamed to rent, are waiting until their 30s to get married and have children, and value creative perks at work over traditional vacation time structures.

There is no magic bullet for Millennials, the generation is still defining itself, but the most successful marketers tap into the wisdom of the generation rather than insulting them, and doesn’t try to force them to fit into their idea that all buyers are Boomers. Honesty, cleverness, and rapidness reign right now, but it is a moving target and in five years could look quite different.

Related reading

AGBeat has been writing about marketing to Millennials for years, and there has been a lot of exciting research published on the topic. Below is a selection of 12 useful articles for your consumption:

  1. 8 products Millennials will not buy in the future
  2. Millennials are more difficult to reach, but respond well to creative ads
  3. Technology has made Millennials impatient yet more complex thinkers
  4. How Millennials are conditioned to be entrepreneurs
  5. Why Millennials rely on friends’ and online strangers’ advice equally
  6. Millennials learning from their Boomer parents’ mistakes
  7. Portrait of the new Millennial businesswoman
  8. The ultimate guide to reaching Millennials
  9. Generation Starbucks
  10. Millennials are migrating into the city
  11. Millennials highly educated, highly underemployed: how they’ll absorb housing
  12. Millennials are well studied, but can still be persuaded
What is creativity? Ask any great thought leader if creativity is part of their process, and we bet even bank leaders like JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon, or Zappos' Tony Hsieh will tell you that it is what makes them successful. Many point to business acumen or education as critical to…
Efficiency is a competitive advantage While there are many secrets to any company's success, an area many brands focus on in an effort to reduce cost and improve productivity is through efficiency. Bruno Foucault, Deputy General Manager in charge of Business Development at Kwaga tells AGBeat that "In order to…

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.


  1. Great post! I do so much writing about marketing, that it’s weird to read about how I am being marketing to.

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