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How to Market to the Millennial Generation

Jarad Johnson, President

Posted on July 17, 2015

Who Are Millennials?

We are probably your nephew. The one who does computer things and was always on his damn phone at family reunions. I mean, he only sees his cousins once a year and this is how he chooses to spend his time? Not only is it disrespectful, but he can’t possibly improve his social skills with that screen in his face all the time. You’d think his parents would do something, but you’re right, it’s not your place to say anything.

Unfortunately, he has grown up a bit and is probably spending tons of his parents’ money while using that phone, which means you have to buck up and learn how to sell him things. More unfortunately, that thing you’re selling probably sucks, so this isn’t going to be easy.

First, you need to know that millennials spend over $1 trillion per year. That’s insane. That’s like Allen-Iverson-at-a-strip-club money. Second, there are over 80 million millennials, making it the largest generation in history. Third, the vast majority of us hate Justin Bieber, so don’t put that shit on us.

So, brass tacks, how do you market to millennials and start raking in that sweet, sweet parent money? One key to succeeding with millennials is to build a smart company that solves a real problem and talks to customers like people — but that’s, like, super hard, so instead I’m going to hook you up with an arbitrary set of guidelines.

We’re Lazy

You know this one from your nephew. While he’s wasting his life in front of screens missing all that Netflix time, the world is still spinning around him. You need to bring things to him. Warby Parker ships glasses to his house, Indochino tailors and sends him a crisp, ready-to-wear suit for that job interview he’s totally going to set up next week, and Casper will have a mattress delivered to his parents’ basement.

I get cranky when I have to leave my house for anything that isn’t single origin coffee, craft beer, or a concert, so you can bet I’m not driving to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy your stupid collegiate tumbler set. Bring your brand to me and make it easy to interact with.

We’re Entitled

We’ve all heard the horror stories of entitled little shit millennials demanding absurd barely-able-to-pay-the-bills salaries based on luxuries like a small studio apartment and food. No one ever said a college degree would ensure a high-paying job, except just about every parent of every millennial, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, we believe we are owed certain things by default. Among those things are transparency and honesty.

We can tell when brands are not being genuine, and we have the audacity to hold it against them. We think brands should treat us with respect, not as a generalized group of people they can fool using tips and tricks to gain an edge over the competition. So, here are some tips and tricks to help you gain an edge over the competition:

  1. Tell the story of why you do what you do.
  2. Know your brand and what you stand for.
  3. Avoid attempting to relate to a group you don’t understand.
  4. Show us how your brand fits within our lifestyle.
  5. Hire Taylor Swift; we love her.

We’re Broke

Seriously, we spent all of our money on a college education and our dickhead bosses won’t pay us enough to live. I mean, this guy I work with has to make his lunches out of snack food strung throughout the office.
How do you sell to those few unlucky millennials who don’t have mommy’s and daddy’s credit card? Give it away.

Taking a look at the iOS apps with the greatest reach, each of the top 10 apps are completely free.

But note this: all of these apps are free! The companies that these apps are associated with (Facebook, Google, Pandora, Yahoo, and YouTube) all generate the majority of their revenue from advertising, which they can do successfully because their apps and other digital content have a large reach. — Anne Marsan

We’re Cool Kids

There is nothing we love more than old people using words like “twerking” to relate to us. In fact, you can save yourself some time and use the hip conservative ad campaign the GOP rolled out in 2014. Shit was cray.

But for reals, we’ve caught on to the phonies. Unless we believe we came up with it ourselves, in which case we will vote whatever marketing message we helped you create to the front page of Reddit. We’ll even adopt your hashtag and provide a completely free social campaign that acts as an echo-chamber of whatever bullshit we still think we’re in control of. Bonus points if you can slide in a feminist blog post that goes viral to bring the topic back to the mainstream podium weeks after the spotlight has faded.

We’re Narcissistic

Do you own an app that serves the sole purpose of making your selfies look better? Yea, well, we do. Truthfully, we’re not nearly as narcissistic as baby boomers believe we are when they catch us in the bathroom taking a half-naked selfie in the mirror. GET OUT MOM YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND!

Okay, maybe we are as narcissistic as you think. But there is more to our obnoxiousness than just wanting people to see how stupid we can make our faces look. We really just want our friends to know we were there.

In the age of the internet, it’s easy to grab a photo of Jay-Z and say you were with him and B at an exclusive party for Blue Ivy’s 18-month album release. We need more than a pic of Jay; to prove that we were there, we need to be inthe picture. Why do we need proof? Well, because we’re narcissistic assholes. Give us ways to prove we were involved and we’ll give you whatever you want in return. Mostly our privacy.

We Are (Online) Activists

Millennials want nothing more than to change the world, and we will do whatever it takes to make an impact, including picking up our phones or, if it’s super duper important, opening our laptops and tweeting #ChangeTheWorld.

I was pretty clear that we’re lazy, so at this point, it’s basically your fault if you aren’t bringing your cause closer to my couch. Remember #kony2012? Yea, we totally removed one of the worst people in the world from power. Well, we didn’t so much remove him, but we did make a video go viral and then lots of other things happened and then we realized we hadn’t eaten yet and called Amanda and Bobby to see if they had plans.

As pointed out by NPR in a 2014 followup, Joseph Kony is still on the loose. After raising over $32 million, Invisible Children was able to ramp up their impact on the ground. During a break from running around like a naked mad man, Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children, admitted they were not prepared to take advantage of the mass publicity the Kony 2012 video received.

If you build your team right and give us a video to tweet out, we will absolutely help launch your cause into the mainstream spotlight, but can you please come back later? We’re trying to eat right now. So rude.

The Millennial Within

We may be lazy, entitled, broke, narcissistic, apathetic, cool kids with a sometimes astonishing lack of self-awareness, but there is much more for those who take the time and effort to connect. We want purpose. We want someone to give us a reason to get off of our asses and make an impact doing what we love. We want to fulfill the fairy tale told by our parents — the “you can do anything” and “you aren’t dumb; you’re just slow” pep talks we all received on a damn near daily basis.

For those who look beyond tradition and the way a generation “should behave,” there are endless rewards offered by millennials, both as customers and as employees. I know, because I work in an office full of these lazy assholes.

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