Millennial Marketing: What’s the Difference?

Millennials have different values, attitudes and media habits than previous generations.

They have a unique culture.

They ‘think different’  and they behave differently, as well.

These differences can be seen in everything from the brands they like to the way they shop. They are evident in the way they consume media and interact with marketers.

Marketers are waking up to the differences.

But it is one thing to understand Gen Y is different from youth markets of the past, and another to know what to do about it. Here are six ways Millennial marketers need to think and act differently to connect with their Millennial target:

1. Participate in Their Hyper-Social World.

Millennials are connected. They interact with more people more often than any preceding generation. Consequently, they define value in terms of social currency, as well as product and service utility.  Marketers need to participate in this world, by bringing something to the party that helps create social value, not just the traditional benefits of low price, convenience and product performance.  Shareability is paramount. If your product is not inherently about sharing, you need to find a way to become part of the conversation. Examples: Coca-Cola Open Happiness Video, Pepsi Refresh Everything.

2. Stop ‘Advertising’ and Start Communicating.

Most discussions of Millennials emphasize the importance of authenticity. That’s the positive way of putting it, but the underlying theme  is a strong distrust of marketing messages. Millennials will not tolerate being ‘sold’, even if it is done in a culturally relevant way. Miracle Whip is not inherently a Gen Y brand, and its ‘We Will Be Heard’ advertising campaign isn’t fooling anyone otherwise.  If it looks like an ad, talks like an ad and walks like an ad, it’s an ad and will not be heard.

3. Leverage GroupThink.

Millennials are famously consensus oriented. They don’t make decisions quickly and without asking for advice, from parents, friends, mentors, and even strangers (Yelp!). Marketing to Millennials™ bears a lot in common with marketing to a B2B buying group.  It’s not enough to target the decision-maker, you also need to target their influencers. This is particularly true of big ticket items like college educations, cars and financial services. But it is also true of more mundane decisions like clothing, beer and wine, cell phone plans and restaurant choices. Savvy retailers are adding larger dressing rooms to accommodate social shoppers. Online feedback tools are critical for making the sale online.

4. Talk About Your Experience, Not Your Stuff.

Millennials are sponges for experiences, but less inclined to accumulate material goods. Some of this is of necessity – their generation is unlikely to enjoy the prosperity their parents did. But much of it is by choice. They want to travel light through the world and leave a low carbon footprint. They are more interested in what goes in their memory banks than into their closet and cupboards. They place a high value on travel, eating out, entertainment and educational experiences.

5. Tell Them Who You Are.

Millennials want to know who are the companies they deal with as much as what those companies can do for them. They make choices based on brand values and citizenship, not just price/value.  It’s not enough to make good products and services, you also must be a good corporate citizen – and walk the talk.  Brands that do not incorporate a societal marketing message will not resonate with Millennials.

6. Seek Their Time, as Well as Their Money.

Millennials think of their resources in terms of both time and money.  Attention is a resource and they make strategic decisions about how they will spend it. In order to gain their trust, a brand has to show respect for their time as well as their money. They look particularly for products and services that contribute to their quality of life by making their lives more efficient.  They are constantly looking for tools like Bing,, and Google Wave that can make their lives run more smoothly.

For more articles on what makes marketing to Millennials different, see:

The Six Be’s of Millennial Marketing

Millennial-Friendly Advertising: What Connects?

Engaging Millennials: How Marketers Can Break Through

Gen Y Marketing: Don’t Forget to Meet the Parents