By now, you’ve probably heard the buzz about the millennial generation. It’s undeniable that understanding how to market to millennials is essential for your brand. Some 80 million strong, these young adults between ages 18 to 34 make up nearly a quarter of the total US population. They wield over $1 trillion in annual buying power. Believe me, I know. I’m one of them. Within the plethora of theories, generalizations, and misconceptions about this generation, a few truths can be gleaned from characteristics that are shared among nearly all millennials.


Millennials are less inclined than their boomer and Generation X parents to react positively to interruptive traditional advertising, such as newspaper ads, and TV and radio spots. While these methods still build awareness, they are not interactive or engaging enough to inspire true millennial brand appreciation. Gen Y prefers to discover a brand on their own terms and on their own time, rather than being force-fed a brand message when they’re not seeking it out.

Awareness alone will not bring any extraordinary or sustainable financial performance. A strong content-driven campaign is a perfect way to reach millennials through discovery rather than through interruption. This is the beauty of content marketing. It’s the communication method these consumers actually want to spend time interacting with. Millennials want to feel like your content is created with their interest, not their wallet in mind. In an NPR focus group on millennials, Antonus Siler, a 34-year-old digital marketer, explained, “Honestly, If I could say anything to the advertisers, it’d be this: Entertain me, make me happy, capture my attention, speak to my conscious and then leave me the heck alone.” Sounds easy, right?


Consider the daily life of a young adult and how your brand marketing can fit into their schedule gracefully. Whether they’re walking to their next class, waiting in line at the grocery store, or laying in bed at night, they’re probably looking at their smartphone screen while doing it.

Marketing through mobile devices is important in general. But given that 85 percent of millennials in the US own smartphones, it’s imperative to make sure you’re providing a positive mobile user experience when you’re targeting this generation. Is your website optimized for mobile so that it’s responsive to different screens? Does your content load quickly enough for someone who’s on the go? Are your calls to action as clear on mobile as they are on a desktop? Asking questions like these will ensure that your brand experience is consistently a positive one, no matter where and when users interact with it.


Ever heard the saying, “Spend your money on your experiences, not things”? This is true in marketing to millennials, who tend to be more attached to experiences than products. Patagonia and Subaru have tapped into this insight with great success: both prioritize promoting the lifestyle that their product supports first, presenting their products as an afterthought.

Instead of marketing by age or gender, build your brand into the lifestyle that your products support. Mashable sums this up nicely: “Millennials define themselves by the products they use, the beer they drink and the glasses they wear. And, most importantly, they love to talk about those products. When millennials fall in love with a product or an organization, they tell the world — through social media and face-to-face conversations.” The millennials who love your product are your best marketing tool. They’ll become evangelists who will sell your product for you. All you need to do is provide the means for them to do so.


In the end, what millennials want is not so different than what every customer wants: a better customer experience or product and an authentic brand that stands for something. 43 percent of millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news. Case in point from the NPR focus group:

“One campaign that really turned me off was the Kia campaign with the hip-hop hamsters. I think they’re trying so hard. And that kind of turns us off because there’s a lack of authenticity. When you want us to buy a car, you’re trying too hard when you’re putting people in hamster costumes and hip-hop dancing and driving through neon-light cities. It’s just too much.”
— Mamie Young, 31, graphic designer

Millennials spend 18 hours a day consuming media, most of which is content created by peers. And it shows: roughly 95 percent of millennials say that friends are the most credible source of product information out there. When looking into a new brand or product, they’re likely to seek out reviews and validation through online research, both in search and social media. Supporting a brand is a personal decision that makes it a part of your own identity. As such, brands that can bring relevant, simple, solutions to real world problems in the most authentic, transparent way possible are the ones that are going to win attention from this generation.

Knowing how to effectively communicate to your audience is key for any content strategy. Contact us to learn more about how your brand can better communicate with the millennial market.