How To Market To A Millennial

NOTE: This post is a condensation of our full online course, available here

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I’m going to give you the secret to successfully marketing to the Millennial consumer, are you ready? Here goes:


We are the most obscenely marketed-to generation of people in history. The Millennial generation has been marketed to death. From the cartoons we watched as kids (when every commercial break featured a minimum of six things that we “just had to have”) to the constant sluice of social media marketing we are all subjected to on a daily basis (sorry Gen X and Boomers…the traffic invading your Newsfeed? That’s our fault #sorrygrandma.)

We get it. We know the power we have in the consumer market today. We’ve heard the facts and we can see the dollar signs bouncing over our heads when we walk into your store, or like your brand’s page, or interact with your content on Snapchat. But this is where you get a little bit ahead of yourselves, advertisers of the world. We don’t know you like that.

The reality is this: We aren’t going to buy from you if we don’t know you. We aren’t going to look the other way if your company uses child labor to make its products cheaper. We aren’t going to buy your products if your company is the professional equivalent of our slightly racist uncle. In fact, I’ll go one step farther: We don’t even care if your products are the best, the cheapest, or the most practical. We will go out of our way NOT to buy you if we don’t like you.

We might not have invented the boycott but we perfected it. In the social media age, you think pragmatism and cost benefit analysis is all it takes to get our money? Do you understand how unreasonable we can be when we’re asked to settle? Have you met us?

Instead, let me propose a solution, a real marketing secret for you: Let’s get coffee. Let’s get to know each other. Your authenticity, value (according to our definition of value, not yours) and your ability to keep it real with us is what will guarantee we want to buy from you, and keep buying from you. Trust me, you want our brand loyalty. We will buy products from you, regardless of the segment of the market you occupy, if we believe in you. We bought the Apple Watch because Apple made it, not because it was the best wearable tech.

If you want to market to us, you have to earn the right, by being there with us. We buy things because they fit our lifestyle. We’ve transformed products that 30 years ago were just “things” (phones, watches, cars, clothes, appliances, you name it) into “lifestyle accessories.” Your brand says something about us, and we are excruciatingly appearance-conscious.

Call us entitled if you want, but know this: We are no different than our parents and grandparents, except in how we perceive value. Granddad only bought Fords because he believed that Ford was the best car company his money could buy. His reasons for believing that were his own. And you successfully confirmed his belief, which is why he kept buying. If you want to get your hands on a share of the $200 billion that Millennials will spend in 2017 alone, you have to get to know us. Stop trying to sell to us, and start trying to show us that you’re on our side.

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Writing about life, leadership, money and business.

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