How to Customize Your Marketing for Millennials

Millennials are one of the most diverse generations in American history, and one of the most important audiences for today’s advertisers. In fact, companies that “get” millennials stand to gain significant market share in the coming years.

To better understand how to market to millennials, we analyzed the results of a YuMe study of over 5,000 Millennials. The study sought to investigate how behaviors and attitudes differ between millennials and non-millennials. The goal was to understand what differences might be attributed to millennials specifically, versus attributes of youth in general.

Overall, millennials tend to share some unifying characteristics, including:

Affinity for technology
● Desires for instant gratification
● Social creatures, online and off
● Tendency toward optimism
● Desire to see the world as a better place

For marketers, one of the most important characteristics to be aware of when it comes to millennials is their trust of friends and peers over experts and corporations. In short, they don’t trust brands. And while millennials’ perceptions of themselves are positive, non-millennials sometimes discount them as spoiled, lazy and entitled. Such views can prevent companies from successfully marketing to millennials and establishing brand relationships.

To win the hearts and minds of millennials, corporate marketers are advised to do two things:

1) Develop a better understanding of who millennials really are
2) Represent their brands in more personal, targeted ways

The Importance of Audience-Based Marketing with Millennials

In this age of personalization, millennials don’t respond to generalized, generic messages. Introducing your brand to millennials requires more-relevant, resonant messaging. By leveling with millennials, brands have a better chance of establishing trust, similar to how friends and peers might do. Audience-based marketing helps.

Audience-based marketing shares elements of other marketing trends: omni-channel, adaptive content, and dynamic/programmatic creative. These approaches reveal the need for more-precise targeting as well as the use of multiple, cohesive messages instead of singular, mass outreach.  

Think about your current customer segments. How are they similar and how are they different? Now within that context, let’s look at the six categories of millennials revealed by the BSC study. Each group has different aspirations, beliefs, and purchasing habits, which we can use to create more impactful messages that combine what you already know about millennial customers with these sub-segments.

The Five Types of Millennials

YuMe’s research revealed that millennials tend to fall into five groups: Mobile Mavens, Tech-Savvy Savants, Cross-Training Cord Cutters, Thrifty Traditionalists, and the Casually Connected. While the study goes into detail on each, here’s a simple breakdown of their key characteristics. 

Mobile Mavens

● Skews younger
● Majority female (60%)
● Constantly on the go; active social life
● Believes in a mix of old-fashioned values and new technology
● Buys luxury brands even if they can’t afford them
● Consults online reviews before making decisions
● Influenced by advertising that is funny and thought-provoking

Tech-Savvy Savants

● Not as young as mobile mavens, but still love mobile devices and other tech
● Uses the internet for personal entertainment and research more than being social
● Information is very important
● Binge-watches TV; enjoys content about corruption and conspiracies, which matches their skeptical world view
● Independent and proud
● Maintains strong social connections
● Likes marketing that is frank and data based; tends to be loyal to trusted brands

Cross-Training Cord Cutters

● Younger, more ethnically diverse and financially sound than other segments
● Strives for excellence and will work hard in the office or at the gym to get results
● Very social; enjoys the latest trends
● Often found in innovative fields like IT
● Watches TV, but probably not on cable—short-form videos on a smart TV is more likely
● Shopping is a challenge overcome by in-store research on mobile devices
● Responds to marketing through popular choice—celebrities or ways to outpace the crowd

Thrifty Traditionalists

● Skews female
● Oldest and least diverse segment
● Doesn’t watch much TV and not as connected through social media
● Tends to shop for the basics
● Quick to ignore ads, but will pay attention to thought-provoking, informative marketing
● A sizable portion are unemployed because they are stay-at-home spouses
● 55% say they’re happiest when alone
● Many don’t believe the internet is a safe place for their children
● Responds to ads with environmental messages, important social issues and education materials

The Casually Connected

● Young and content with meager pleasures
● Digital natives that tend to use free sites/apps
● Likely single without children
Tons of friends online, spending hours on social platforms
● Internet is the preferred source of entertainment and information
● Makes few purchases, splurging on occasion
● Many feel uncomfortable in large social situations, though compulsively checks social media sites
● Appreciates convenience without following trends; follows individual opinions and impulse buying
● Wants technology to entertain them, so you may want to include cute creatures or comedy

As you can see, each group is likely to respond to its own type of marketing. Some prefer entertainment marketing while others are engaged by cause marketing. While your own target segments may not break down in this way, identifying these types of differences and similarities is a crucial step in order to create more personalized, engaging marketplace connections.

Combining Targeting with Creativity

Accounting for millennials’ general desire for instant gratification, social relationships, and desire to see the world become a better place means brands must appeal more personally through their marketing. Audience segmentation is easily done with CRM data through marketing automation, and in paid media via data management platforms (DMPs) and data purchasing. Before you tailor your creative to your target however, you will need to make sure you are able to target these groups separately.

All of this personalization requires higher levels of content, and ad production and management. It also suggests that the new role of creative planner will become clearer in many organizations, as will the need for matrixed creative planning.

While old-school dynamic creative may not appeal to millennials (too formulaic), technologies are emerging to help—like Creative Management Platforms (CMPs) that enable ad production that is fast enough to match creatives to millennial segmentation. It looks like work, and it is—but with technology, this type of marketing is viable. It stretches the creative mind to new limits and enables new, more-satisfying relationships with customers.

Rob Lennon is a senior product marketing manager at Thunder, an IHAF member company. Learn more about Thunder Creative Management Platform at

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