Meredith Carter


So You Want to Market to Millennials

Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials represent the largest generation in America. With elder Millennials breaking into their 40s, this is also a cohort heading into their prime earning years and ready to flex their economic clout. 

To help you reach the generation that coined the digital-first lifestyle, let’s take a look at how Millennials redefined consumerism and how to craft messaging that resonates with an age group more attached to their personal values than ever before.

Brands Must Align with Core Values

Whereas Gen X defines themselves based on who they are as an individual, Millennials are more apt to see themselves as a reflection of their beliefs and ideologies. To Millennials, the causes they support are everything, and as such, their consumer behaviors are directly impacted by their personal creed. As consumers, they seek out products and services that align with their ethos, and they are willing to go without before supporting a company that does not.

Generally speaking, brands that eschew social responsibility struggle to connect with this cohort. To market to Millennials, your brand must:

  • Define your company value in terms that are clear and concise
  • Walk the walk, ensuring all internal and external processes fall in line with these values (or be caught and crucified online)
  • Reference specific successes in adhering to your values in marketing messaging

And this concern about brand alignment impacts everything from product development strategies down to advertising campaigns, packaging, shipping, and more. Every aspect of your business’ operation will be held under the microscope–and Millennials aren’t just paying attention, they’re consciously changing buying decisions based on what they see.

Sustainability Matters

Few causes evoke the same shift in Millennial consumer behavior as sustainability. The greener and more ethical  your brand, the larger role sustainability should play in your branding story. And remember, you can’t just “say” you are eco-friendly and call it good. You need to show them and prove it.

Note: Under no circumstances advertise sustainability as a feature of your product or brand if it is not true. Millennials expect authenticity from the brands they are loyal to and so bending the truth about environmental benefits will eventually backfire and cause great damage to your brand.

Reshaping the Value of Things

Few consumer shifts from this cohort are as pronounced as the flip from purchasing things to paying for experiences. 

And to make the plot twist even thicker, not only do Millennials prioritize experiences over possessions, they also place high value on being able to broadcast these experiences on social media. This represents an amazing opportunity for brands who are able to position their product or service as an “experience” to generate strong organic branding/advertising coupled with social proof.

If you think about some of the top brands Millennials love, such as REI or Patagonia, these companies do still sell physical goods, but goods that are used to enhance experiences. And loyal fans happily boast online every time they are able to put these products into action.

Handheld Consumption

Adapting advertising campaigns to fit into the digitally-driven lifestyles that characterize today’s Millennials is vital. While older cohorts certainly consume plenty of media using their smartphone, Millennials are the first generation that will actively choose a personal device over a television, even when both are available for watching the same content.

When brands want to capture millennial attention, creating engaging video content tailored for smartphone screens is key. And tailoring this content has little to do with the technical specs of your video and everything to do with including visual storytelling elements that drive users to interact with the content.

Millennials don’t just want to watch videos on their phones. They want to immediately share their thoughts and engage in two-way communication, both with other fans of the brand and employees of the brand itself. It’s about crafting stories they see themselves in, with images and videos as vivid as their aspirations.

To truly connect with Millennial shoppers online, you must tell a story that induces action. 

Millennials Love Social Proof

Millennials use social networks as tools to inform, educate, and inspire peers while seeking inspiration themselves. Social media isn’t just where millennials hang out—it’s where they make connections that influence buying decisions.

Brands with a strong, positive reputation on social media do well with this generation, as do brands with high rankings on major review sites.

Millennials seek out opinions before investing hard-earned money, and so brands must invest in pushing loyal customers to talk about their products online and taking the time to complete formal reviews.

What about Influencers?

Answering the question about whether it is wise to invest in influencer marketing is incredibly complex and will depend on your specific brand or even unique products within that brand – but what is wise is to understand why Millennials respond so positively to influencers in the first place.

Unlike previous generations that reacted more strongly to famous celebrities rather than ordinary people who became celebrities, Millennials trust influencers because they envy the lifestyle, not the person.

Selling a lifestyle with your messaging can be achieved without paying established influencers to do it for you. 

Finding Millennials Online

Knowing which social platforms to target for reaching Millennials is less straight-forward compared to Baby Boomers and Gen X. Older Millennials’ online habits may be similar to Gen X whereas the younger two-thirds of the cohort are less drawn to Facebook and more apt to be on TikTok, SnapChat and Instagram.

Don’t Skimp on the Narrative

Baby Boomers love a brand they can trust. Gen X wants information and features to do their own research. Millennials crave a narrative.

Tell your brand’s story and Millennials will listen in ways the older cohorts tend to ignore.

BRK Global Marketing Helps Brands Connect with Millennials

If all this stuff makes perfect sense but you’re not sure where to begin, we can help!

Our team can work hand in hand with yours to learn your brand and identify the elements of your story that will resonate with Millennials. As experienced marketers, we will then guide smart marketing decisions to effectively deliver that story.

To get started, contact us to schedule a consultation.

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