Notice: Trying to get property 'user_login' of non-object in /customers/1/c/b/ on line 25

How To Market WITH Millennials (Not TO Them)

by Tanya September 16, 2014

Did you know that there are more 23-year-olds than any other age, according to Census data.  The second most populous age group was 24, and the third was 22.

By now, smart businesses realize the Millennial generation isn’t just a bunch of hipsters with smart phones taking selfies, but a grown-up cohort with $2.45 trillion annual spending power by 2015 (next year!)

We are entering our prime years and we are ready to spend some cash. Businesses that don’t start tailoring their marketing to Millennials are missing out on a major consumer opportunity.

Actually, forget tailored marketing, just engage and respond like a human being. Seek interaction, not reaction. Market WITH us, not TO us (the title wasn’t a typo).

Customer is in control – now what? Companies need to rethink everything they know about marketing and start all over again.

But what does it actually mean when we ask “How to market WITH Millennials”? What should marketers do to engage with us?

There is no one answer or top 5 tips.

You can, of course, always copy other companies, who have successfully engaged with Millennials, but it’s likely it won’t work for you, because you don’t really know what you’re doing and consumers will sniff it out.

It’s always nice to know what’s been done before, but only to come with something better, not identical. Borrow ideas from different industries, connect the dots and come up with something completely new.

Connecting with Millennials can be extremely difficult for many traditional businesses, but it’s usually only because we are not used to a new in control consumer.

In reality, connecting with Millennials is pretty straightforward. Here are just some basics:

Authentic is cool!

Start with being real!

Marketers need to master the art of speaking to their audience like they speak to their best friends. Be conversational and light. Don’t use big words or boast. Millennials hate vague business jargon, it only creates barriers. Don’t call your coffee “The best coffee in town!” especially if it’s not. And even if it is, don’t. Understatement is one of the secrets of branding, marketing, and advertising in our social media-saturated, millennial (Gen Y) -influenced world.

Understatement in itself isn’t enough to sell something.  But it allows room for the customers in your market to feel that they can discover your brand for themselves. And this room for discovery, for co-creation, is where the magic (engagement) happens.

Mission statements and brand platforms sound great in the boardroom, but they mean nothing to a 20-something who will skip your ad after about 0.7 seconds.

The twenty-something consumer does not waste time on people or companies that are not being real with them.

Authentic is cool. Authentic is a bit dorky and awkward. Authentic is hip.

This generation has seen it all, and it takes them all of three seconds to pass judgment on you as to whether or not you are the real thing.

Have you scanned a fashion magazine lately? Not only will you see racial diversity, but also diverse body types, people with physical disabilities and non-traditional family groupings. In other words, Millennials want assurance that they are dealing with a business whose face looks like “me and my friends.”

BTW,  is there anybody on the planet who actually enjoys pre-roll video adverts on YouTube and wouldn’t hit “Skip Ad” after 5 seconds? Well, I had my first such experience with this ad. I didn’t hit the button! Have a look and you’ll understand why:

Example of authentic ad. No professional voice overs or scripts! Just real life.

The only annoying thing is that we have to skip pre-roll ads in order to see an ad! 🙂

Authentic brands:
Nivea (#BringItOn)

Social validation: The power of peers!

New research by Crowdtap indicates that Millennials spend an average of 17.8 hours a day with different types of media. With social media being a top priority, as 71 percent say that they engage in social media daily.

User-generated content – which is social-media posts, photos, blogs, email, texting – shapes Millennials’ lives more than any other form of media with it being 40 percent more trusted than other media.

Anna Kassoway (CMO of Crowdtap) predicts that brands will increasingly rely on “influencers”: consumers who shape their peers’ perceptions through user generated content.

“The best social marketing is not publishing itself, but inspiring others to publish content about them,” says Kassoway.

Social engagement is more that likes and comments, a company’s engaging with Millennials means adding value to their experience of the brand through loyalty programs, recognition events and special access to sales and other promotional events. Even more, it means creating the impression that each consumer is special.

Social brands: (#Flashtagram)
Pizza Hut


Social media is not publishing platform, it’s your opportunity to invite for participation.

I’m seeing more cool hover over interactive display ads that invite to join a conversation on Twitter using a hashtag.

With participatory you make your customers feel like they get individual service.

Interacative brands:
Doritos (Crash the Super Bowl)

Be dead easy to use

With our limited attention span and millions options to choose from, quick and smooth buying experience is crucial.

I was recently looking for a Skype call recorder software online and it took me three hours to find the suitable one. At first I downloaded one, but couldn’t figure out how to install it properly, so I gave up and went with the easiest option.

If we don’t get it right away, or at least see how to get it, we’ll lose interest and move on to something we do know how to use.

Easy to use brands:

Take a risk: Be bold, unexpected, fearless

Millennials are a generation raised to accept and celebrate differences, so you don’t need to desperately fit in.

Gen Y like daring brands. We’re looking for something that stands out from the crowd in a real way, which rarely happens when you play it safe.

Find a great idea, and instead of testing it to death, go with your gut, take a risk, and see how we respond to it in a real-world “test.”

It’s why brands like Dove are winning with Millennials. Generation Y is the most conscious generation, a usual “sex sells” campaign won’t work with us. We see through it. As this generation continues to mature, brands that portray a message of negativity and body-image shaming will look more and more archaic.

I love this Dissolve fierce branding video:

Daring brands:

Have a brand purpose. Be bigger than yourself!

We believe that leadership is service to others and that companies can do good while making a profit.

Why does your business exist? How do you contribute to a wider cause? We are one of the most compassionate generations with regard to social issues. This quality extends to purchasing and brand preferences; research shows that Millennials will seek out and buy brands that support a cause that aligns with their values. The purchase then makes the buyer feel better about him or herself.

We’re altruistic, optimistic, passionate, and want to be part of something else rather than your business.

Responsibe brands:
Levi’ ( Levi’s Go Forth campaign)
Kellogg’s (Breakfasts for Better Days™ Hunger Relief Initiative )
American Apparel (Sweatshop Free)

And last but not least …

Don’t dare to insult our intelligence

We’re the most informed consumer generation ever to face marketing professionals. Before we’ve made any major purchase, we will have researched it, asked our friends about it and searched your reviews online. Rushed special offers and overpriced products won’t work like they used to.

Advertise, but don’t interrupt

Interrupting is annoying. We don’t want your pop up ads appear out of nowhere, when we are concentrating on something else.  Advertise through content, natively.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

Serious people and companies scare me!

The power of funny is incredible, especially with Generation Y. We love to laugh. It makes us feel closer to each other and closer to your brand. And your brand doesn’t have to be an Old Spice or Burger King to make a joke. Serious brands can still use humor to illustrate a more serious point.


Learning how to market WITH Millennials isn’t just good business,  it’s  a way to prepare for the future of advertising and marketing. Because we’re going to get older, technology will get only more complex, and the next generation – they are even weirder than we are.

Millennials are constantly interviewing your brand online, and your brand has to prove itself, every day.

Social Shares

Never miss a post!

Unsubscribe any time


First millennial generation blogger & spokesperson in the UK. Instagram - @luckyattitudeblog

Related Articles


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.