Marketing To Millennials – Take My Advice Or Go Out Of Business

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Marketing To Millennials
Marketing to millennials shouldn’t be a trip down a dark ally. We know too much about Gen Y.

Marketing to millennials is proving to be very challenging.

Industries are up in arms and marketing firms are making a killing.

Research firms that study the millennial generation like The Pew Research Center, for example, are making a killing as well.

So far, marketing to millennials or trying to has cost companies a lot of unnecessary spending.  At this rate, companies can expect to spend more than the average amount of time it takes to break even.

Right now everyone is trying to figure millennials out in order to capitalize on the trillion dollar spending power millennials wield.  Unlike everyone involved, I didn’t spend a dime to get the answer – not even on my education.  I used general observation which in fact gets respect.  Scientists most certainly can use general observation in order to substantiate a hypothesis.

Once you finish reading, you are going to have a clear understanding of how marketing to millennials is easier than you can see.  The biggest issue is realizing that whatever worked before is never going to work again.  This is the hurdle that is making this issue way more challenging than it has to be.

Marketing To Millennials Is Going To Require Radical Change

Here are the things we know:

  • The millennial generation is the most diverse generation in two areas:
    • A great deal of millennials are not white and of those a percentage speak another language at home.
    • Millennials are different.  Highly social, in that they belong to multiple social groups.
  • Generation Y, another term for millennials, has different values than older generations.
  • In relation to older generations, millennials on average earn a significant amount less per year.

If millennials are the most unique generation, don’t you think they deserve the most unique marketing tactics?

Businesses must employ radical change on two fronts if they want to call themselves marketing to millennials:

  • How they think about marketing
  • How they think about business overall

Radical New Way To Think About Marketing That Millennials Will Appreciate

Marketing To Millennials
Love Ugly at Ubiq, a popular Men’s boutique.

Millennials want to be your business’ friend.  They want to feel like they have a personal connection with your business.  If your business cannot establish a personal connection with millennials, then it is going to be an uphill battle.  If you would not do it to your friend, then do not attempt to do it to a millennial.  Furthermore, whatever you do with your friends, try to exhibit that with millennials.


  • Your business has a story.  If it doesn’t, close your doors now, I don’t even know how you got this far.  Go back to your story.  Did you forget how valuable it was?  Without your story, you would not be in business.  Millennials want to know that chain of events.  Whether or not they can relate to it directly, the millennial generation expects integrity.  Having a story and weaving it through your brand will go a long way.
  • Allow millennials to feel like you listen.  You can do this a number of ways.  Since you can’t satisfy millennials, seize every opportunity you can to publicly scale your business up based on popular suggestions.  Also, you can host logo contests, design contests, restaurants can allow people to name platters and much more.  I didn’t go to school for any of that stuff, so commission a crew and get creative.

New Margins For Your Business

Either you are going to have to lose money on the back end or go out of business.  Take your pick.  What you can’t do any longer is think about profit margins.  You business people make me absolutely sick!

Now that I think about it, if everyone took their brains off of the profit margins you would figure out how simple marketing to millennials is.

Here is a story:

When I first moved to Philadelphia, my girlfriend at the time and I went to a strip club.  It was a little hole in the wall in what I didn’t know was a pretty bad neighborhood.  When I went in, the first thing I noticed was that the women were nude. 

I am standing against the wall applying pressure nervously, “Babe.  You getting me a lap dance, right?  Or is that out of the question?”  I felt my voice quiver a little bit.  

“Yea.  I’ll get you a lap dance!”  Yes! *insert fist pump*  

As the dance was coming to a close, I could feel depression setting in.  In New York, lap dances start sometimes at $10.  I wasn’t about to spend $20.  My girl leans over and asked, “How much?”

The stripper said, “Five,” and started to get up.  I softly grabbed her elbow and said, “Nah, let me get another one.”  When she sat down, I said, “Yo!  Is that a special or what?  They always $5?”  Yo!  I thought I was in a candy store.  I started looking around plotting on who was going to dance on me next. 

Her response made me laugh.  She pointed to a stripper across the room, “She gives head for $10 and it’s like 3 others that do too.  She the only one I see.  The others are probably getting their ten now.” 

Come to find out, lap dances used to be $10 until that particular stripper started working there.  When everyone got wind that head was going for $10 all of the girls had to drop their prices in order to make money.


  • There is always going to be that “stripper.”  Unless you are going to fight her at the let out, you are going to have to adjust your margins to compete.
  • Millennials are not disloyal.  They value money differently.  When they were coming of age, the world was going into a recession.  They struggled to get a job and when they did they were underemployed.  When you are underemployed and the cost of living is still on the rise, yes, you may job hop in search of a better opportunity.  Do not interpret that as disloyal.  You do a disservice to your own business and you discredit circumstances unique to millennials.
  • Marketing to millennials without coupons?  Dumb. Millennials love coupons, but do not stop there.  Think of a rewards program.  For example, Dunkin and Starbucks have the right idea.  If somehow the app has an algorithm that will tailor offers to their habits, you will be that much closer to seeing just how loyal millennials are.

Adopt Terms Like Ethical And Transparent Into Your Companies Values

Donald Trump did win the Presidency without having to furnish his tax records.  Businesses, however, are not going to be as lucky.

When it comes to millennials and money, the best thing you can do is go out of your way to be transparent.

If you go the extra mile to be ethical, your business is going to win.

When it comes to manufacturing, for example, go out of your way to be with ethical.  Put thought into every aspect of your business.  Ask yourself, what can I do to make this scream, “ethical.”  Once that is in place, be overly transparent.

When Starbucks married ethical and transparent over communication was born.  Doesn’t that sound like it speaks to what millennials stand for?  Over communication.  Is that not what they are figuratively doing with their attachment to their networks and devices?


  • Get the story of every business you do business with and make sure it fits your business’ mission and values.
  • Then you talk about it.  “Well, our vendors started in a little garage.  We too had humble beginnings so when I heard about this company, I was interested.  Then I found out …”  That is how you want everything in your business to be set up.

Without A Social Cause Don’t Bother Marketing To Millennials

Warby Parker just opened in Philadelphia.  The location has a full house everyday and the customer service is phenomenal.  Remember years ago when Ray Bans took off after the movie Men In Black?  Well, Warby Parker is doing the same thing.  The only difference is they are affordable.

Warby Parker values affordability and they speak that value in everything they do.  Their business model allows them to save their customers a lot of money.  If that isn’t enough, every time someone purchases a pair of glasses, they donate a pair.  Millennials love social causes.

Another company that has employed a social cause in order to drive sales is Gap.  I remember years ago they had a collection called Red which was a social cause.

Tom’s – those karate looking espadrilles that people wear?  Well, they too donate shoes to kids in need for every purchase.

How about a social cause that links with brands instead of the other way around?  Think about Susan G Koman foundation for breast cancer.  Last year I saw some Koman 990s from New Balance with the little pink ribbon.  In the past, I’ve known Adidas to have a Koman apparel collection.

There are so many studies and articles out describing how millennials are when it comes to social causes.  Millennials would happily take less money to work for something or someone they believe in.  Despite how tight millennials are with their money, they contribute and donate far more than any generation ever did.  Millennials are very sensitive to social causes.  A business would be remiss to not be connected to one.


  • If you cannot think of a social cause that relates to the industry you are in, focus on going green.
  • When you find a social cause, continue to go green by reducing the eco-print your business makes.
  • Refer to a previous step and remember to be vocal in all you do.

I’m Not In It For The Flavor, Tho!  I Am In It For The Experience

Coffee is bit of a hobby for me.  When people find out how much of a coffee snob I am, one of the first questions they ask is what is my favorite kind of coffee.  Another common question is what do I like to drink.

I’ll say that I prefer coffees from South America over ones from Indonesia.  Or, I may say, I only do drip and the treat is the method they use to brew the coffee.  Chemex, French Press or Starbucks Clover, for example.

I always finish the answer with, “But you know?  I have an advanced palate because drink it.  I’m not really in it for the flavor, tho.  I am in it for the experience.  Coffee is awfully special.”  Then I go on to explain what I mean.

I had no clue that is how millennials are.  They say millennials love a good experience.  Millennials will pay more for an experience just like I said they would earn less for what they believe in.  I’ve always been happy to pay more for a better experience.  I will go out of my way, even to pay more for an experience.  Every single day, I walk past a Starbucks to go to Elixr.


  • Millennials need a lot of attention and they like to feel important.  How can you create that on the floor or through the service you provide?
  • I once got in an Uber and there were throw pillows in the back seat and bottles of water.  You must know – I gave him 5 stars and I don’t give 5 stars to anyone.

Customer Service Reformation

I cannot even dig into this.  When I start thinking about customer service in 2017 versus 1998 I get borderline irate.

With what companies are facing, especially the bigger ones, there needs to be a whole paradigm shift of what people think customer services is.

That age old term, “the customer is always right?”  It does not apply anymore.  Here is an example of what this is like:

  • This is like how millennials haven’t grown much since 1999 economically, but the cost of living has continued to rise.
  • This is like the push for higher minimum wage in New York City because what people were making in relation to inflation did not make sense.

As a corporation, why would you position yourself at the mercy of someone’s social following?  By doing so, you subject your employees to unnecessary abuse and you lose money that you cannot afford to lose.

We are going to unpack this at a later date.  If I’ve peaked your interest, shoot me an email and we can set up a meeting.  I know a lot of the affluent millennials speak to corporations, there is no reason I can’t do the same.

Some have been speaking for years about millennials and no one still has it figured out.  Therefore, if you cannot wait on my post about customer service reformation, shoot me an email.

Without Customer Service Reformation, every business might as well turn into a pop  up shop.

The End

Hopefully you have some stuff to think about.  Before you think about what you’ve learned, you should think about what was so hard about this?

I mean, I have to be honest.  I do not have a college degree.  It grinds my gears that the person who could benefit from this does.

How do I know the challenge in marketing to millennials has nothing to do with the actual marketing but letting go of what you think you know about marketing?

Common sense.

… and I am quite the people watcher and analyzer.

I remember, at the peak of my addiction to Criminal Minds (a crime show) I thought I was a silent member of the Behavioral Analysis Unit, the team the show was about.

Matter of fact, I got into an argument with a lady around the same time and I remember telling her, “Miss!  I am not doing this with you.  Aye!  I know what type of person wears socks like those.  I already have your profile, so please.”  That is what they did on Criminal Minds.  They made profiles of who the killer could be so the cops could have an idea of what type of person to look for.

Oh … and I have 20 years in retail in various capacities.

Marketing to millennials cannot be that hard.  If you start by accepting nothing is the same, you will be in a better position to see what has to be done.

Once you accept the fact your profit margins will never be the same again, you will be that much closer to getting back to them.

Just because I am saying they will never be the same again, does not mean they will never be the same again.  They may surpass what you were used to.  However, accepting that you will never see that money again will allow you to move in the direction you need to be the business a millennial wants to solicit.

Q & A For Free

I always encourage people to ask me questions and leave me feedback.  This time is slightly different.  The person reading this post is interested in marketing to millennials.  For that reason, any answer I give has the potential to be very valuable. 

What questions do you have?  Try me?  After 20 years in retail and being a people watcher so hard my bffs think I am a creep, I am pretty sure I can help your company rise to the challenge at hand.

I’d love to hear from you.  What do you know about marketing to millennials?  Do you have any ideas to add to this list?

If you get a chance, this site is a work in progress but check the About page to learn more about The Millennial.  Also, I’d love to connect on twitter.  Follow me @forgenerationy






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