Marketing to Millennials

May 12, 2015

Marketing to Millennials

Young adults between the ages of 18 to 34 – so called millennials – wield over $1.3 trillion in annual buying power, according to a study conducted by the global management firm The Boston Consulting Group. That’s enough marketing influence to make any business stand up and take notice. However, despite common misconceptions that hold this demographic as a solitary, narcissistic entity, millennials in the U.S. constitute quite a diverse audience. Approximately 43 percent are non-white and nearly 25 percent speak a foreign language at home.

With such a large and diverse collection of people – and strong existing notions about the demographic’s interests and personality – it can be difficult for businesses to develop an effective marketing plan that successfully targets this generation. Fortunately, millennials tend to share certain characteristics that businesses can target through niche marketing campaigns if they know where to look.

Market Through Mobile

While marketing through mobile has already taken a renewed importance in recent years, it’s an especially important avenue for businesses hoping to attract millennials to explore. Approximately 85 percent of millennials own a smartphone, according to a study conducted by Nielsen, so businesses must step up their mobile marketing game if they hope to capture millennial attention.

You first need to think about the basics when trying to excel at mobile marketing. Does your website feature pages that are optimized for mobile search? Does your website contain a lot of graphics or videos that make loading times longer on handheld devices with slower connections? Does your website have a clear call to action, even when viewed on a smartphone screen?

Once you’re confident in your website’s mobile optimization, you need to get creative. The best way to reach millennials is to find ways of integrating your advertising organically into popular mobile programs and applications, especially if your campaign rewards participation. Many app developers have started to incorporate advertising as part of the app experience, and even allow marketers to offer users rewards after hitting certain in-game milestones, such as Gatorade offering rewards in fitness apps after users complete specific accomplishments.

Engage Social Groups

Millennials carry a nontraditional mindset that works contrary to the traditional ways many businesses have marketed to generations in the past. The word “family,” for example, carries a variety of different meanings to millennials, not all which connect to the idea of marriage. “Community” also carries with it a variety of meanings, and the idea of their physical neighborhood is not always the first thing a millennial will think of when hearing that term.

Additionally, many milestones of former generations, such as buying a home, have become less attainable for many millennials due to the lingering effects of the most recent economic downturn. Of course, that’s even assuming many millennials even want to buy a home – a growing trend among this age group is traveling lifestyles that are independent of one set location. Adult life doesn’t follow the set course of marriage, family, home for many millennials, so advertising to this group means adjusting accordingly.

Rather than fix on these specific milestones in life, target millennials through social groups instead. Focus your attention, for example, on segments of the population that are drawn to social causes, those who live alternative lifestyles or those who ardently follow specific personalities on social media. Millennials are going to have a much stronger connection to these types of social identities than they will to specific stages of life.

Be Engaging, Be Relevant

While this particular strategy easily applies to all generations, it’s a necessity when targeting millennials. A large majority of millennials have never lived in a world without social media and the Internet. This has resulted in a group that will be the last to simply accept your company’s message on face value and take the actions you request.

Millennials are focused rather on finding answers to real life problems by conducting research online – both through social media and search. Companies that are able to develop simple, relevant solutions to real life problems are the ones that will gain the attention of this generation.

Companies also need to focus on engagement. Approximately 95 percent of millennials say that friends ranks as their most trusted source for product information. This means that if you can engage this generation’s customer base and create advocates for your products like Apple has done, you’ll see significantly better results than you will using any other form of traditional online marketing. The best way to get millennials listening to what your company has to say is to have other millennials spread the word.

This mean your company must stay relevant, engaging and willing to create a community to share your products and services. If you don’t, millennials will choose to tune out your business.


Targeting to millennials can seem intimidating. But by working to improve your mobile marketing campaigns, engaging with social groups and staying relevant, your business will definitely catch the attention of this demographic.