Winning Strategies for Marketing to Millennials

May 15, 2019
By iQ Staff
Hands holding a smartphone with a thumbs-up icon on the screen, radiating energy.

Everyone knows millennials, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y, for short. Born between 1980 and 1994, they surpassed the baby boomers and Generation X to become the largest generation in the world. By 2020, they are forecasted to make up 35% of the global workforce, positioning themselves to become the world’s biggest spenders.

Millennials grew up with CDs and dial-up internet, but came of age with the iPod and smartphone. They witnessed the rise of social media from Myspace to Snapchat. They are known as the “experience generation,” people who would rather spend $2300 at Coachella than put that money toward a mortgage. The behavioral and technological differences that define them have marketers reshaping notions on how to reach them.

What do millennials want and how do we market to them? Here are a few ideas for reaching Generation Y.


Participation in marketing

If a millennial likes a brand or product, they are usually excited to share their endorsement with their friends and family all over the internet. By involving millennials in the content creation process, companies can tap into the powerful digital word-of-mouth marketing that millennials embrace.

Burberry became one of the first brands to capitalize on this idea in its Art of the Trench Campaign. The company gathered customer-generated images of customers wearing its signature trench coat and shared them on its digital platforms. The photos sent were real, organic, and original. This leads us to our next point: authenticity.


The behavioral and technological differences that define millennials have marketers reshaping notions on how to reach them.


Brand authenticity

With so much content floating around on the internet, companies that stand out to millennials are ones with an aura of authenticity. Authenticity is all about having your company’s personality represented throughout your marketing. Some companies project authenticity by lifting the veil and taking customers behind the scenes, or by being transparent in their communications by responding to tweets, Instagram and Facebook comments.

Ben & Jerry’s created an on-brand, authentic online presence by playfully marketing its products. On social media, the brand uses punchy one-liners combined with fun images, such as leaving its milk and cookies ice cream flavor out for Santa during the holidays. That playful presence extends to its website, where Ben & Jerry’s outlines its 13-step process for making ice cream, starting with cows at local Vermont farms and ending with a video on the customer experience.


Values-driven marketing

Connected to authenticity, millennials tend to support brands that have strong brand story and values. The outdoor company Patagonia aligned its brand with environmental causes and clearly displays its values and mission in all its marketing efforts. On Black Friday, the brand even took out a full-page ad in the New York Times that asked consumers not to buy its products and instead to think more carefully about consumption. As a result of its consistent values-driven communication and actions to back it up, Patagonia kick-started a millennial love affair with its story and products.


High-quality mobile experience

No article about millennials can be complete without mention of the mobile experience. To reach millennials, you have to go where they are, and where they are is on their phones. Companies that are able to use social media to usher customers to a seamless online shopping platform will capture a large millennial audience.

Warby Parker set up a high-quality online experience to match its high-quality frames. A sleek Instagram with engaging eight-second videos directs customers to the website, which includes simple quizzes that lead to frame recommendations. To complete the online customer journey, Warby Parker then sends a package of five recommended frames for customers to try on for free at home. The brand’s smooth digital experience drove the success of its business and eventually allowed its expansion to brick and mortar locations.

While the world can sometimes poke fun at millennials, the companies that are able to stay on top of the current language and culture of each generation will be better at forging connections to customers. Ultimately, they will be better equipped to attract millennials and reach the next upcoming group of spenders, Generation Z.


What is your brand doing to reach millennials? What millennial marketing tactics do you think are most effective?