The Secret to Marketing to Millennials: Stop Marketing to “Millennials”

The hot topic in journalism and marketing is figuring out how to appeal to Millennials these days. The problem is that 80 million people can’t all feel the same. In fact, they don’t. Yet marketers are strategizing as though Millennials have the same psychographics and belief system.

There is no denial that there are some commonalities among Millennials since this generation has faced things that have, and will continue to influence their world view. It would affect any generation. The recession, 9-11, social media, smartphone technology and a slow economic recovery will have a lasting impact on this generation. But, some of the stereotypes are getting marketers in trouble.


The above billboard in St. Louis is probably the worst example of stereotyping Millennials – that they are dependent on their parents. This kind of marketing does not match what I know about Millennials. My experience has been the exact opposite.

There’s More than One Choice for this New Generation

Marketers get into trouble when they buy the stereotypes about Millennials and begin to treat them as though they are all the same.

The reality is that Millennials are very diverse in terms of their social, economic and philosophical beliefs. With social media and the ability to build a group interested in a topic or niche area, Millennials have some of the most varied interests and world views. This generation learns so much via collaboration and sharing ideas using social media.

The average Millennial is exposed to so many new topics, world views and areas of interest that no other generation has had access to in their formative years. Many of these ideas are the kinds of things that a Gen-Xer didn’t know about until they were 40. Today, you can gain support for a local issue and gain international pressure all from typing 140 characters. You can search out people who have the same interest as you, follow them, join their group and share in the niched interest.

Personally I am interested in climbing 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado. Twenty years ago, most Gen-Xers had never heard about climbing peaks in Colorado unless you lived in Colorado. Today there are step-by-step instructions, videos, groups and many people sharing their experience on social media.

The Death of the Monoculture

Previous generations were drawn to a trend or a brand via traditional media. We all remember the same Pepsi commercial because it was playing during the same Saturday morning program that we were all watching. But it was much harder to share niche areas to your sphere of people. Today a single trend is not nearly as strong as it once was.

Remember parachute pants? Everyone knew what they were and why we were wearing them. If you were the first person in your middle school to get them, you were the envy of the playground.

Today we have niche trends not mass trends. Gone are the days of the monoculture. You can no longer have a creative jingle and attract a mass of people. Today, you need different approaches to appeal to specific groups. There is no longer pulling a magic lever and the people all follow.

Marketers need to be careful out there. It’s time to get your creative team out of the basement and into the conversations that people are having about brands and niched interests. Treating a mass of people as though they can be labeled with a generational stereotype is not effective – especially with this diverse generation.

Tags: , , , , ,