The Power of Marketing to Millennials
May 30, 2016 7:00 AM EST | 5 min read
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are the generation born between the early 1980’s and on through the year 2000.
They are the product of highly-invested parents and a rapidly changing technological environment.
Millennials were there for the transition from house phone to cell phone, and Walkman to the iPod.
Marketing to Millennials
Despite their association with technology, the millennials are often struggling with negative associations.
When searching on Google by using the phrase “millennials are…” the first three results are “lazy,” “stupid,” and “entitled.”
Millennials are not the first younger generation to be called “lazy/stupid/entitled” by their preceding generations, but they are the current generation to be targeted.
Due to their tech-savvy nature, millennials are now emerging as one of the primary sources of marketing power for businesses in the projected future.
Yet not many businesses are adjusting to the potential of the millennial market; whether due to the generation’s lack of income or their overwhelming debt from student loans.
For those that do play into the millennial market, there are some inspiring stories of success.
Here is a list of some of the most successful businesses that have properly utilized the psychology of marketing to millennials through varying methods.
1. Tom’s Brand Shoes
Tom’s brand shoes is known for the One for One campaign: for each pair of shoes purchased, Toms donates a pair to a child in need around the world.
They have been successful with this message of corporate responsibility for 10 years running.
Millennials appreciate a business that can make a difference – either environmentally or socially – and Tom’s is the perfect example of a company that succeeds in this marketing campaign.
2. Patagonia Jackets
Patagonia recently created a unique marketing strategy through their “Don’t buy this jacket” campaign.
The underlying message was of keeping their strong, durable, high-quality coats that could last years and not feeling obligated to purchase a new one every season.
Despite the message suggesting otherwise, Patagonia saw a surge in sales following their ad campaign, and strong support from customers new and old.
Their message of recycling clothing plays well into Gen Y’s appreciation for environmental responsibility.
3. Starbucks Coffee and Target
As heavy users of social media, millennials are often mislabeled as “self-absorbed.”
However, studies have found that consistent use of social media makes users more empathetic to views that are not their own.
This is evident through millennial support of businesses that push LGBT+ and equal rights.
Starbucks was a pioneer of gender neutral bathrooms in 2010 when they adjusted all their buildings to fit the new policy in their Washington DC locations.
Now, with the recent law in North Carolina and the public response from Target, there has been an increase in online support for businesses that allow transgender access to bathrooms.
This is an encouraging sign for investors, and the businesses that are backing transgender access could see steady increase in sales and a loyal following from millennials.
4. Penguin Books and Reading Rainbow
Another interesting marketing trend is the nostalgia factor for millennials.
Due to their experience with rapidly changing technology, there is a constant desire to recall a simpler time.
Companies that turn nostalgic desire into mobile apps have found success through this strangely specific vein of marketing.
Penguin joined this bandwagon by introducing the MadLibsmobile app in 2009.
Following the launch of the app, Penguin has reported seeing a 74% increase in MadLibs’ sales and over six million downloads of the game.
Reading Rainbow also capitalized on the nostalgic marketing vein when they attempted to Kickstart the relaunch of their popular 90’s television show.
The campaign broke Kickstarter records with LeVar Burton’s appeal to restart the show.
5. Domino’s Pizza
In general, companies that invest in cross-device marketing have found a greater following with Gen Y.
By integrating multiple apps for a smoother user-experience, these businesses are finding a boost in both sales and customer service reviews.
This worked well for food companies like Domino’s that jumped into the app-ordering game and saw a huge spike in mobile traffic and sales.
6. Presidential Candidates
Although presidential candidates don’t quite qualify as “businesses” (or they shouldn’t), two specific candidates have properly used the psychology of marketing to millennials to boost their political campaign.
Since it is estimated that in 2020 millennials will make up the largest voting block in the United States, it is surprising to find that only these two candidates are pandering to the millennial vote.
President Obama successfully outreached this large voting group during his 2012 re-election by running a massive online and social media campaign that trumped his opponent’s attempt at the same.
This mirrors the success of other companies that have adopted cross-device marketing.
For Bernie Sanders there is a growing online presence, but he is also utilizing another method: his integrity.
Millennials are a bit distrustful after living through the economic crash of the early 2000’s and highly value honesty when it comes to politicians and businesses.
The rallying support that has followed Bernie throughout his campaign is evident of his successful message and the power of the millennial vote.
A politician that panders directly to their economic needs and highly values equal right and socio-economic equality is an obvious choice for the millennial generation.
Time will tell if it is ultimately victorious, but the power of the millennial vote is hard to ignore when observing his wins so far in the campaign.