Selling to Millennials

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Millennials – that segment of the population born between 1981 and 1997 – are an essential part of the consumer economy.

Accounting for one fourth of the U.S population, and boasting a population of 80 million with a buying power of $200 billion – they’re a force to be reckoned with. (1)

So what makes them tick?

To answer that question, we have to look at the families they came from. Millennials (usually) were parented by Baby Boomers – the generation born between 1946 and 1961. And that generation in turn was raised by the Greatest Generation – born 1910 to 1924.

Looking at this family dynamic can tell us a lot about the psychology of Millennials.

First, let’s start with the Greatest Generation.

These were individuals raised in the depression era, during a time of scarcity. As a result, they came to crave a sense of economic security, and passed this desire on to their children – the Baby Boomers. They urged them to pursue practical and secure careers.

The message they transmitted to their children was that with hard work, they could achieve success as time went on.

But, much to the good fortune of Baby Boomers, they came of age in a time of unprecedented economic growth, and so their hard work paid off even more than what they had anticipated.

So when it came time for Baby Boomers to raise their own millennial child, they had a very sunny outlook towards the future. The future was noting but butterflies and rainbows, complete with a pot of gold. Plus, baby boomers raised their child during the great “self esteem movement,” and so imbued their children with an unflagging belief that they were special. Plus, Baby Boomer parents didn’t emphasize economic security the way their parents had. Instead, they taught their children to pursue their own unique talents and callings – to find a purpose.

What then, was the reality for Millennials?

In lieu of prosperity, they were hit wit the recession, rising unemployment, and crippling student loans. (College costs have surged 500% in the U.S. since 1985). (2) For this reason, many Millennials struggle with a strong sense of disappointment and frustration. This dilemma is then compounded by social media. On Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat, Millennials have the power to curate an image of themselves in the best light possible. When fellow Millennials see their posts, a perceived sense of missing out and “missing the mark” can metastasize.

In general, Millennials have developed a set of traits unique to their generation. Again, while this is a blunt generalization, I think it’s true that Millennials have a tendency to embody these eight qualities more than other generations:

#1 – Wildly Ambitious

Having grown up during the great self-esteem movement, Millennials not only think that they’re capable of being the best, but also want the best. They’re reluctant to settle for anything that’s perceived as being a “runner-up.”

#2 – Very Frustrated

While Millennials want the best, they are not necessarily in a position to obtain it. 76% of Americans now live paycheck to paycheck. (2) Financial pressure is a major source of stress for Millennials.

When selling to Millennials, it’s important to subliminally acknowledge this frustration, and emphasize the feasibility, sustainability, and affordability of a product.

#3 – Think They’re Special

Again, thanks to the self-esteem movement, Millennials have an enhanced sense of being special. What this means when selling to Millennials is that they need to be made to feel special.

Never talk down to a Millennial (or anyone for that matter). Instead, display an attitude of “you the customer are coming from a strong knowledge base, and I respect that.”

#4 – Want to Contribute

According to a survey of 1,300 Millennials conducted by Elite Daily, 42% of Millennials want to co-create products with companies. (3) Just think of successful companies that invite and solicit involvement from consumers. Chipotle lets you customize your burrito. Spotify encourages you to create and share your own playlists. With Uber, Lyft, and Yelp, customer feedback dictates the success of drivers and restaurants. Working in features that enable Millennials to provide their own 2-cents enhances the appeal to Millennials.

#5 – Want Connections

Millennials like building connections not just with other people, but with brands. 60% say that they are loyal to brands they currently purchase. (3)

#6 – Need Validation from Social Media

62% say that if a brand engages them on social, more likely to be a loyal customer. (3)

#7 – Want Authenticity

Millennials are better at seeing through glossy advertising than previous generations. They want to get to the heart of a product and know that it’s authentic. 33% rely mostly on blogs when deciding on a purchase. (2, 3)

#8 – Want to Make an Impact

75% said that it’s important that a company gives back to society. (3) Brands like Tom’s Shoes help nurture this desire. Companies that give back are more likely to get more from Millennials.




Inspiration also drawn from WaitButWhy.


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