4 Tips for Marketing to Millennials

By Hannah Richards, Content and Social Media Marketing Strategist (and millennial)

Working at a marketing agency, and being 27-years-old (the epicenter of the millennial generation) I get asked one question waaaaay more than any other: how can I market to millennials?

It seems like everyone and their brother wants to market to millennials these days – which is ironic considering how in the exact same breath, the exact same clients are complaining about how millennials don’t buy anything.

The truth is, we do buy stuff. We just buy things differently. And there are a couple things you should know about us before you start trying to sell your stuff. These 4 are my favorite:

  1. Millennials are not a target audience – they’re a generation.

Telling your ad agency or marketing department that you’d like to market to millennials is like telling your realtor that you’d like to purchase a home with stainless steel appliances. Sure, it rules out most of the homes built before the turn of the century, but other than that you’re likely to tour homes ranging from double-wide trailers to 4000-square-foot Victorians.

All millennial means is that a person was born between the early 80’s and late 1990’s. But besides being born in a designated time frame, these people have little else in common. Some have 3 kids, some haven’t even gone to college. Some own waterfront estates, and some live with mom and dad. Some like to watch sports, and others like to knit sweaters. Catch my drift?

Besides being an overall poor target audience for, say, dentures – we are a pretty diverse bunch. So if you want to be successful at marketing to us, you’ve got to be more specific. For example, I would like to target young suburban moms. Or, I would like to target urban male college students. While there are some generalized “trends” among millennials (see below), you won’t be able to apply them successfully until you’ve narrowed down a more specific target for your product.

  1. Millennials are richer (and cheaper) than you think.

There seems to be a common sentiment that millennials are a big group of poor, whiny, self-entitled post-college kids who would rather leach off their wealthy parents than work an 8-hour shift.

That’s so far from the truth it’s not even funny. Now, I can’t speak for your neighbor’s kid who still lives in the basement, or the one that moved into a tiny-house in rural Texas in order to pay off their student loans (see why you can’t generalize an entire generation?), but as a whole, millennials are actually wealthier than Gen Xers. Yep – you read that right. And it gets even better. Fifteen percent of Americans with over 2 million dollars are actually millennials. Sure, some of us are still couch surfing – but don’t assume it’s because we can’t afford an apartment. Maybe we just don’t want one. Which brings me to millennial insight #3…

  1. Millennials buy differently.

Because millennials (so far) haven’t been following traditional buying patterns (i.e. go to college, buy a car, get married, buy an apartment, have a baby, buy a house) many have written us off as “unlikely to buy.”

Not the case. Millennials DO buy things, we just buy them differently. Instead of buying new cars, we tend to rent them (congratulations to Zip Car, Uber and Lyft for figuring this one out and cashing in). Instead of buying houses, we like to AirBNB them. As a whole, we prefer to crowdsource or share our purchases. Why? Because we care more about flexibility, mobility and social interaction than we do about personal ownership. Think of us as the generation that really took Kindergarten to heart.

We might be richer than Gen X but we’re much more discriminating as to how and where we spend our dollars.

  1. Millennials are into themselves.

I know, I know – you skipped right down to this bullet and didn’t even read the first 3 because this is what you want to hear. But you can stop hating now because millennials’ love for ourselves and our identities is the key to turning us into consumers.

How? It’s easy. (Ok, not really, but in theory.)

See, millennials tend to spend money on things not because of what they do or what they’re worth but because of what owning (or renting/using) a product says about them. It’s why we love social media so media much. Our Facebook profiles, our Instagram feeds, our clothes, cars, apartments and earrings are all statements of personal identity. They say something about us.

Why do millennials (despite our cheapness) buy iPhones? They’re not the best phones anymore and they are realllly far from being the cheapest. But we buy them anyway because being an Apple person says something about us. It says we’re tech savvy, innovative, aspirational and connected. Why do we buy TOMS shoes? Because it means we care about people less fortunate than ourselves. Millennials make purchases that make a statement.

So you wanna sell us something?

Build a brand that tells a story. A brand that stands for something. A brand that says something about US. Then we’ll talk.


About Ethos

Ethos is a multiplatform branding agency that develops and executes integrated marketing campaigns across multiple channels for companies inside and outside Maine.

At Ethos, we believe that the most effective way to set a company’s marketing course is by finding its core truth – its ethos. We know that once we discover and communicate that core truth, we can truly make a difference to each client’s unique marketing and business objectives.

With Ethos, you get more than a Maine advertising agency. You get a long-term partner whose goals are your goals.

Learn more about the Ethos approach and the work we’ve done for our clients. Want to have a conversation about your brand’s core truth? Contact us!