Marketing to Millennials

May 3, 2017

Small business owners: Not thinking about marketing to Millennials? Think again!

According to a recent Nielsen report, 75 million Millennials inhabit the U.S. alone—and they’re responsible for spending more than $65 billion each year and influencing more than $1 trillion in total consumer spending.

Whether you’re a big or a small business owner—or are in the marketing business—you need to know how to court the second-largest generation.

Here are 6 things to consider as you market to millennials.

Marketing to Millennials: #1 Embrace Multiculturalism

“… marketers and advertisers should be interested in multicultural Millennials: many of them are first generation professionals who are in prime acquisition mode,” said Courtney Jones, vice president of Multicultural Growth & Strategy at Nielsen.

“A growing disposable income among multicultural Millennials is a ripe opportunity for companies that court them and make an effort to cultivate and earn their business.”

Embracing multiculturalism is a good baseline business (not to mention ethical) practice, but thinking about it through the lens of the Millennial consumer might be a new idea.

Culture is important to this cohort and their spending habits reflect that, particularly when it comes to sports, photography, fashion and food. Nielsen calls it the “ambicultural multicultural Millennial expression of culture” and claims it’s interwoven into all aspects of their lives.

Bottom line: Multicultural Millennials want to purchase products and services geared to them. They also want to see their culture reflected and respected in imagery and marketing copy. Imagine the pain points, needs and wants of a young, vibrant, multicultural generation.

Marketing to Millennials: #2 Be Digital

If you’re a modern business, we don’t need to tell you why a digital marketing strategy is important. Millennials aren’t the only generation that lives on their phones, but Nielsen reports that they spend the majority of their $65 billion a year online.

“Nearly half use their mobile devices to compare prices and browse when shopping, and almost 80% agree that the internet is a great place to buy products – which is easier for that generation to do since they maintain and value their connection to the internet during the entire day.”

What does this mean for marketing? At the bare minimum, you’ll need a mobile-friendly website, but there are more sophisticated ways to engage with millennials where they live, including:

Offer Self-Service

If Uber has taught us anything it’s that Millennials (and other generations, for that matter) love a hassle-free transaction that requires little to no human interaction. Create an app that allows customers to do things like book appointments, pay and offer feedback and ratings for an all-star experience.

Hang out on Social Media

“Marketers and advertisers should also consider social media when reaching multicultural Millennials, particularly Facebook Messenger, Google, Spotify and Twitter,” reports Multicultural Millennials: The Multiplier Effect by Nielsen.

If you want to reach millennials, spend time on their favorite platforms. Share news, discounts, sales and info that appeals to their sensibilities. Create visual, shareable content so it’s easy to pass on.

Marketing to Millennials: #3 Offer an Experience

Millennials tend to value experiences over owning things, says Blake Morgan, a customer experience futurist. A study by Harris Group backs up her theory:

This generation not only highly values experiences, but they are increasingly spending time and money on them: from concerts and social events to athletic pursuits, to cultural experiences and events of all kinds.

For this group, happiness isn’t as focused on possessions or career status. Living a meaningful, happy life is about creating, sharing and capturing memories earned through experiences that span the spectrum of life’s opportunities.

When serving Millennials, what can you do to make them feel like they’re experiencing something special—even if it’s while doing something mundane? Combine this desire with technology to create short but meaningful experiences through online games, polls or other interactive media.

If you provide a specialized service, see what can you learn from this surfboard company when it comes to giving customers something to remember.

Marketing to Millennials: #4 Understand Them

Millennials are often maligned for being lazy, narcissistic and entitled. In reality, this generation is underemployed, laboring under tremendous student loan debts and struggling to get a foothold into a baby boomer-dominated workforce.

If you want the loyalty of a Millennial, make an effort to understand their reality. Hold an informal focus group with potential Millennial customers to find out what they value most, how they experience both the market- and the business place. Use empathy to truly get what matters to them and how you can earn their trust and loyalty.

Marketing to Millennials: #5 Show You Care

Millennials are a sophisticated bunch. They don’t respond to customer service that’s robotic, insincere or overly shout-y about the awesome nature of a product or service. They tend to be drawn to local, grass roots companies that demonstrate that they care about the community, the environment and their customers.

And they’re more likely to listen to a fellow consumer’s experience with your company than what you, as the owner, has to say about it. Consider low-key marketing efforts that include the voices of their peers and your commitment to causes they care about.

Marketing to Millennials: #6 Make It Dead Easy to Do Business With You

Millennials are the first generation to have experienced modern technology from birth. They never dealt with dial-up internet or pre-digital video games and they adapt to new technology lightning-fast. Companies like Amazon and Apple have appealed to their sensibilities when it comes to creating technology and customer service experiences that take zero time or effort.

While a small business may not be able to compete with Amazon when it comes to speed, you can take a page from their playbook when it comes to designing an online interface that requires a maximum of two clicks to book or pay for a service. Communication is another area in which you can adapt to their preferences: Be available to communicate through social media, DM, text or live chat.

When it comes to marketing to Millennials it’s important to remember that they’re a fast-moving, fluid generation and they appreciate businesses that have the same nimble adaptability.

That doesn’t mean you need to adopt gimmicky tactics or spread yourself thin across all the social media platforms. Millennials respond to authenticity above anything else. Win their business by knowing the value of your services and offering them in a simple, modern, respectful way.

about the author

Freelance Contributor Heather Hudson is an accomplished freelance writer and journalist based in Toronto. She writes for a number of publishing, corporate and agency clients who depend on her to deliver high-quality, on-brand content and journalism with a fresh perspective. Learn more about her work at

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