Millennial Influence on Marketing

Ahhhh and here we have a wild millennial in its natural habitat—you can tell by the way that it is. Sitting in a specialty juice shop, eating a sandwich—gluten free bread no doubt—and drinking Kombucha tea. It is easily identified by its off-brand apparel and ability to stare at screen for hours on end without ever blinking. If you listen closely enough, you can hear it complaining about rent and how its parents just stopped paying for its cell phone bill. Truly a sight to see!


If you haven’t already been informed a million times, millennials (also known as generation Y) are a unique breed. Studies show that this group of individuals ages 18-34 are more diverse than any preceding generation—44.2% are classified as being in a minority group. They are more educated than any preceding generation—they have the highest college enrollment rate in history. They are more financially burdened than any previous generation—49.4% have some amount of student debt (Deloitte–Issues By the Numbers)

Not surprisingly, the differences in characteristics of Generation Y from their predecessors has fueled differences in millennial consumption habits.  The graph below clearly shows how Gen. Y spends more liberally than Baby Boomers and Generation X.


In addition to their purchasing habits, the way they interact with advertisements and companies is completely different.

  • They look for social engagement. Studies have shown that 62% of millennial are more loyal to brands that engage with them on social platforms (Forbes)
  • They expect companies to give back to society in some way. 75% of people surveyed said they want to give their money to companies that contribute to the community (Forbes)
  • They value an experience over a product
  • They want to co-create their product

Accounting for about one-fourth of the US population and predicted to spend $200 billion annually, I think its fair to say it is important for companies reach this group in an effective and engaging way. But how? Traditional marketing tactics are proving ineffective, so I did a little reasearch into what tactics work best. Here are a few of the most effective millennial marketing strategies, and an explanation for their success.

Video Marketing

Never before has a generation had such easy access to so many different kinds of content through so many different devices. That being said, if a millennial is not engaged, they will not waste their time looking at this content. Videos are easily consumed content that can capture and maintain millennial attention.

Furthermore, videos also have the ability to tell a story or show an experience in a way that traditional marketing cannot.  These days, “showing” is more effective than simply “telling.”

One company that exemplifies both these ideas well in their marketing is GoPro. They use engaging videos to capture and maintain viewer’s attention, and market an experience as opposed to a product.

Check out some of their videos here: GoPro

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 8.54.03 PM


Making Millennials into the Advertisers

Generation Y spends more time than any other generation on social platforms. They create content daily to be viewed by their numerous snapchat, Instagram, FB, and Twitter followers. So, what could be better marketing than organic content posted by a fellow millennial? Nothing! Companies that have been able to leverage this strategy and get Generation Y members to act as “brand ambassadors,” posting organically about their products/services have found great marketing success. 

On example of this idea of “marketing without actually marketing” is Starbucks’ unicorn Frappuccino. The company did not spend a dime on advertising, yet its colorful drink named after every millennials favorite mythical create went viral. Think about how many times you saw posts about the new, trendy drink on different social channels. A lot! 


Making Millenials Co-Creators

Millennials are a very opinionated group—they know exactly what they like and what they dislike and are not afraid to tell you. The goal of co-creation as a marketing strategy “is to make the consumers feel like they are part of the campaign, not the target” and effectively makes them feel like their voice is being heard (TimeZone).

A good example of a company using their target audience as co-creators in order to market to them effectively is Lay’s “Do us a Flavor” campaign. This campaign put the power in the hands of the millennial and allowed for the consumer to engage and offer input regarding what product they would want to see.






  1. s_courtney18 · ·

    This reminds me a lot about my post I wrote this week on GoPro’s use of user-generated content! I completely agree–these shifts in advertising and content creation empower millennials while also engaging them. I’ve heard that millennials are incredibly difficult to target with traditional advertising campaigns because it makes companies seem less genuine, so shifts to influencers and reliance on customer-generated content allows companies to access millennials more naturally. Personally, I really appreciate it when a company realizes my importance as both a consumer and a contributor, and hopefully more companies will realize that we want to be taken into account!

  2. kaitlinardiff · ·

    It’s definitely true that companies have to fight for our attention. The best way to get our attention is to stay relevant, and who know’s what’s relevant more than us? The Lays campaign reminds me a lot about how Ben and Jerry’s came up with Cherry Garcia: they polled users to ask them to generate ideas for new flavors. This strategy of going straight to the user to develop content is beneficial for the company in that get to focus on their core business offering by delegating to users, while also successfully creating a product that they know users will enjoy. Maybe some more companies should use this to create novel innovations to help ensure product adoption!

  3. clairemmarvin · ·

    I thought you did a great job of boiling down some of the most popular marketing tactics to reach millennials. When I worked for Bumble this past summer, we asked ourselves how to best reach our prominently millennial audience. We have built a huge Bumble brand ambassador program both at colleges and in densely populated cities across the country, and have found that “making millennials into advertisers” is an extremely effective way to spread the influence of our brand. As millennials are such a large and lucrative segment of the population for marketers, companies will NEED to adapt to these new ways of marketing in order to stay alive.

  4. Nice post. I’m always a little wary of conflating generation with life-stage, however. That is, are these millennial differences or young adult differences? The importance is that you grow out of one but not of the other.

  5. That’s really interesting data. I’d be curious to dig into it more though – spending more on Ubers, coffee, and restaurants are all logical for people who are more urban, live in cities, don’t have cars, etc. There’s definitely some selection bias, but most of the people that I know in our generation live in cities whereas most boomers live in rural/suburban areas, have cars, and have houses. Millennials have totally different lifestyles, though maybe that’s part of the point. We’re living such different lives, and all the things you’re pointing out probably will stay true as we get older…

  6. ericiangesuale · ·

    I am indeed a millennial so my opinion doesn’t hold much objective weight, but I really like the new tactics companies are using to keep us engaged and a part of the process! The Starbucks unicorn frappuccino reminds me of things like the Museum of Ice Cream or the countless Insider Facebook videos of crazy food concoctions. These things truly market themselves because we want to show this cool, unique, and photogenic content on our feeds, raising awareness for others to consume the same thing. What’s interesting is that a parallel can be drawn between this and luxury brands. Aren’t people doing the marketing for Gucci, LV, and Chanel, when they cover their outfits in interlocking G’s, C’s and LV’s? In terms of being a part of the creative process, I think this is also a great strategy. Imagine the possibilities now that Instagram stories have the polling feature! What consumer wouldn’t feel more inclined to buy a product if their opinion helped shape it. Can’t wait to see what these brands do to engage in the future.

  7. Sheritta Coleburn · ·

    I like your explanation of Millenials and how we interact. It’s a known fact that we are on social media more mainly sharing our lives and showing what we do and we don’t like. It was smart for business to pick up on this concept and leverage us to help them increase sales. Not that businesses get all the credit but most do a good job in creating a “win, win ecosystem”.

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