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How to Advertise to Millennials: The Generation Bigger Than The Boomers


Born between 1982 and 2000, millennials were the first generation to grow up with what we now refer to as our life-blood: the internet. Older millennials warred with their parents over blocking dial-up access while being on the phone, while the younger millennials borrowed their parents’ phones for mobile browsing. In either case, parents of millennials struggled for access to telecommunication and their kids grew up ingrained in digital culture.


Millennials are all special and deserve attention no matter what but more importantly, they are now the largest generation. They have just edged out Baby Boomers for that distinction and are currently standing at three times the size of Generation X according to the US Census Bureau. Given their sheer volume as a group, marketing to their unique and/or perverse tastes is imperative.

A survey with US marketers suggests that the emergence of millennials will have the second greatest impact on the industry behind mobile (phones, not homes).

Advertising needs to take into account the diversity of individuals in a generation to avoid being archaic and ineffective. Michelle Weinberg, Senior Account Executive, U.S. Sales

Millennials are also a diverse group given their vast age range. Younger and older millennials don’t behave in the same way when it comes to shopping online and shouldn’t be lumped together by marketers like coleslaw and gravy from an indifferent cafeteria worker. “Advertising needs to take into account the diversity of individuals in a generation to avoid being archaic and ineffective” –Michelle Weinberg, Senior Account Executive, U.S. Sales. Older millennials are now exploring parenthood which has a great impact on their values and attitudes towards brands and Sponge Bob Square Pants. Millennial parents are less likely to focus on experiences like going outside and more on domestic items and home ownership.



  • Don’t target millennials as one homogeneous group


  • Utilize technologies such as dynamic creative, personalize creative and communications for individual shoppers based on different data, including: demographic, contextual, behavioural and past interactions


Millennials are very cautious and practical with their money. Think of a dad’s midlife crises spending and now think the opposite of that and you get the mindset of a millennial shopper.

Their attitude towards finances didn’t come out of nowhere. Millennials are burdened with high debt loads and less income overall. 63% of millennials had student debt upon entering the workforce, according to polling by TD Ameritrade in June 2016, and they make $10 000 less than the average 25-34 year old did in 1989 as found in a report from the Young Invincibles advocacy group citing Federal Reserve data. Millennials are also coming of age in a time of great economic uncertainty with older millennials directly feeling the impact of the Great Recession of 2008. It’s not at all surprising that millennials clutch their money sacks a little bit tighter than previous generations. A survey by Ipsos found that 75% of millennials currently have some type of debt.

Millennials prioritize quality and finding a good deal. They want their boots to be on sale and to keep their feet dry for a few winters (I’m pushing my Blundstones to four!). With less money to play around with, your average Millennial needs to make smart purchases or sink further into a wasteland of debt.

The desire to find a good deal isn’t extraordinarily unique to millennials. What really differentiates them most from previous generations is that they take into consideration the values of a company. Millennials often want their own values reflected in the brands they purchase from. They look for brands that contribute significant profits to charity and stand up for causes they believe in.

Highlighting philanthropy, especially in ads shared on social media, can have a positive impact on how much that ad is shared. Joe Younes, VP Innovation & Audience Engagement

When a brand shares the same values, millennials are less afraid to post about them on social media. It helps get rid of the stigma against sharing a branded post when it means that a good cause will benefit from the post. As Joe Younes, VP Innovation & Audience Engagement explains “Highlighting philanthropy, especially in ads shared on social media, can have a positive impact on how much that ad is shared”.

Millennials are also more likely to repeat buy from a brand that shares their values:

Beyond the simple utility of a product, people use purchasable items to establish identity. Millennials do this at an increased rate compared to previous generations as they value identity establishing qualities: not everyone has it, impresses people, looks expensive, fashionable designs. The product is symbolic for the millennial consumer.

“Identity formation is inextricably linked to the urge to consume, and therefore the acceleration of capitalism necessitates an increase in the rate at which individuals assume and shed identities. The internet is one of many late capitalist phenomena that allow for more flexible, rapid, and profitable mechanisms of identity formation.” Jonah Peretti, Founder, Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post



  • Promote great deals, customer service and social values in your marketing

  • Use social values and strong identity messaging as an upper funnel tactic to differentiate your brand and establish initial contact with consumers

  • Lead users down the path to purchase with messaging about your unique customer service and great deals

  • Make your brand and its content share-worthy. Ask yourself why would someone want to share this? How does sharing your content help them showcase an aspect of their identity to their network?


  • Use technologies that allow for multiple touchpoints with consumers to highlight different aspects of your messaging such as email, remarketing, and Contobox’s Storytell.

  • When your content is share-worthy, reduce the friction to share by making it easier to share. Contobox’s Social Waller feature makes it easy to make aspects of your ad campaign shareable straight to users’ newsfeeds.


Millennials are a diverse group in North America and are very open to purchasing products that reflect diversity. According to a Harris Poll taking place in June of 2016, 65% of millennials would shop at a store that offered more multicultural products.

An increase in multicultural products both reflects the potential consumer’s identity as well as their values in supporting diversity.


Many brands are hopping on the “Woke” advertising trend of featuring political statements in their ads. These advertisements typically feature messages of inclusiveness as seen in Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” commercial about immigration and GE’s “Millie Dresselhaus” which attempts to incite celebration over women scientists. When brands take this approach, it’s important that they are authentic about their message or it can backfire on them. Audi’s Super Bowl ad about the gender pay gap went over well until online journalists pointed out that their management board is all male.


  • How to Advertise to Millennials: The Importance of Mobile and eCommerce

  • How to Advertise to Millennials: Think About Your Experience

  • How to Advertise to Millennials: Influencing Purchases and Decision Making



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