Marketing to Millennials What Businesses Are Doing Wrong How to Fix It

Marketing to Millennials: What Businesses Are Doing Wrong & How to Fix It

If you’re a marketer, you’ve probably struggled with marketing to millennials? It could be said to be the white whale of marketing. Also known as Generation Y, this cohort of young people born in the ‘80s and ‘90s are now graduating college, getting jobs, getting married, buying cars and homes, and in short, spending all kinds of money. And this makes them a number one target of marketers everywhere.


The largest generation since the baby boomers is an extremely attractive target to marketers. They account for 86 million Americans—about 1/4th of all Americans (chart)—and they spend about 20% (chart) of all of the nation’s consumer spending. As they age and earn more money, this proportion will surely rise.


But another key reason that makes millennials such an attractive target is their interconnectedness. Thanks to social media, which this generation grew up in (and indeed, invented), millennials have unprecedented power to influence the opinions and purchasing habits of their friends and family. Further complicating matters, they also have different priorities (chart).


With this increasing transparency, managing a brand image and identity is even more important than it used to be. Companies need to work harder and harder to maintain and curate this image. Meanwhile, the targets themselves are not immune: millennials see purchases as an extension of their self-image and personal identity. So there’s risk, but also the potential for great rewards. Read on to find out some great tips for marketing to this elusive demographic.


Build relationships


Because of their decentralized information-gathering habits, millennials are more likely to choose a brand based on a friend’s recommendation, rather than something they saw advertised. Indeed, they’re much more skeptical about advertising than generations before them.


Marketers should focus on building mutually beneficial relationships with their customers, and not just try to sell, sell, sell. Using social media channels to establish lasting and productive relationships with customers allows your fans to use their natural skills to amplify your brand. If you make it worth it for them, millennials will happily evangelize your brand to their friends and family.


Be there when you’re needed


One of the most effective ways that a brand can represent itself on social media is by tying itself to important events. It’s important to remain aware of the context in which you’re tweeting, blogging, or posting at all time. Millennials expect convenience and timeliness,and it’s up to you to provide them with that.


Innovate and be meaningful


There’s nothing more attention-grabbing than a brand new idea. Marketers have had millennials in their sights for years, and they have seen it all. More than any generation in history, millennials are bombarded with advertising day in and day out. It’s on their TV, on their car radio, on their smartphone, on their work computer, on their subway car… anywhere they are, advertising is sure to follow.


That’s why it’s so important to show them something they haven’t seen before, or that is meaningful in some other way. Some brands have had great success tying themselves to a social movement or cause that is close to the heart of their target customers.


A new generation of marketing


Perhaps the most exceptional thing about the millennial generation is how much ink has been spilled discussing their habits. Things like student loans, smartphone consumption, and social media usage haven’t been studied in such a young generation, and because of that, millennials feel they are constantly under the microscope. It’s difficult to define the tendencies of an entire generation, and marketing to this generation moves toward subgroups and microcultures at an alarming rate.


Perhaps the takeaway here is that millennials won’t be defined monolithically, but that they require a personal, individualized approach by marketers. They need to be spoken to directly and personally. Find out how to do that, and you find your way into the millennial’s heart.


10 thoughts on “Marketing to Millennials: What Businesses Are Doing Wrong & How to Fix It”

  1. Businesses/ individuals generally build websites to share information, let their audiences know about their offerings and reap more profits so your major objective is to make the process of seeking the required data as handy as possible.

  2. Annie Marie Peters

    Great article, Tom! My brother is graduating from college next year, and your point about how interconnected the Millennial generation are is very true. It’s become their main source of news, entertainment, socializing, AND shopping.

  3. I was reading a Moz article this morning that made a good point about marketing to Millenials: We’re making the mistake of marketing TO them, rather than developing a genuine relationship with them. It’s an important distinction. Nice blog, Tom.

  4. Interesting. I never really thought about how this Millennial generation interacts with brands differently than my own generation. If you’re right and they see a brand as an extension of themselves, it’s all the more important for marketers to focus on brand identity, making it real, and making it meaningful.

  5. Sabrina J. Newman

    Yes! You’ve hit the nail on the head here, Tom. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking. I’ve read multiple articles about marketing to Millennials, and most of them have missed the mark entirely. In this age of SOCIAL media, we have to be taking a SOCIAL approach.

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