How to Market to the Millennial Generation (Even If You’re Not a Member)

When I see what my generation is doing on reality TV shows, I typically roll my eyes and pray that employers aren’t watching and assuming everyone that age acts like that. Either way, one thing’s for certain: The Boston Consulting Group (the same people who brought you cash cows, stars, question marks, and dogs to business terms in the 1960’s) are clearly interested in what makes Millennials tick.

Look at those crazy hooligans!

I’m not sure what initially caused the lightbulb to go off, but Boston Consulting Group wanted to identify how behaviors and attitudes differed between Millennials (people between the ages of 16 and 34 years old) and non-Millennials. They also wanted to find out which differences are truly generational characteristics for Millennials, and not just qualities associated with youth in general.

In order to do this, they surveyed 4,000 Millennials and 1,000 non-Millennials (ages 35 to 74) in the United States. One of the unexpected findings that came from this study was that many executives who make product and service decisions for their companies have “negative or dismissive attitudes toward Millennials.” This is an extremely dangerous (not to mention, stupid) generalization to make, since there are almost 79 million Millennials in the US right now, compared to the 76 million baby boomers!

Boston Consulting Group was able to determine shared beliefs and attitudes of Millennials based on their responses to questions. What they found was six segments, each shedding light on how this generation acts and what their beliefs are. Knowing how each one ticks is essential for companies to develop effective product offerings, marketing campaigns, channel strategies, and messaging. A one-size-fits-all effort will fail to connect with each and every segment, so it’s wise to carefully choose “the one” as the focus of your marketing.

Below is a table direct from the report (which you can read in its entirety here) which shows the break up of Millennials into the six segments that were found:

Why should you care? Because Millennials make up a huge portion of the consumer market. Companies hoping to better target this evolving generation should be taking notes! Here are some general insights into a Millennial’s mind:

  • These consumers care more about instant gratification and getting in and out of the store than just receiving exclusively “friendly” service. Because of this finding, companies need to re-examine their existing customer-service models. Find a happy balance between offering speedy service, but while still being friendly and helpful for your other consumers.
  • Millennials are much more likely than non-Millennials to explore brands on social networks and interact with them. Companies must monitor what is being said about their brands on social networks and actively participate in the conversation. The time has come to reevaluate whether their current brand endorsers are credible and effective with their audience, because while the right brand advocates can be very effective, the wrong ones can be ineffective and detrimental.
  • This generation is a regular social butterfly offline as well, because they engage in group activities by going out to eat, shopping, or traveling with friends and coworkers. They look towards these groups for validation that they’ve made the right decisions. And since groups will always spend more than individuals at places, smart companies should consider using location-based shopping services like Foursquare and Shopkick to get the most out of this trend. While not every Millennial is using these sites, you could attract some that wouldn’t have considered your place before.
  • They’ve had the 3 R’s of recycling engrained into their brains since kindergarten so they’re more interested in cause marketing than non-Millennials. They’re more likely to purchase items associated with a particular cause over an item that has no cause attached to it.

Some companies have even gone as far as setting up advisory boards consisting of Millennials in order to understand this generation better. Others have experimented with new service models, retail formats, delivery channels, and even considered entirely new products to sell them.

It’s important for companies to pay attention today so that they can gain valuable insights into tomorrow’s opportunities– and get a head start on capturing a larger share of the Millennial wallet!

Do you fit into one of these segments, if so which one (or ones)? Do you agree with the segments? How do you wish companies would market towards you? Sound off below!

Amy Hoidas

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ Community Manager. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on


  1. Candice J.

    I think I would be most considered Millennial Mom. To be honest the quote for millennial Mom is me to a “T”. I’m extremely family orientated and digital savvy. I’m def. of the technology age and take a lot of solace in it as far as my source of information and shopping. Although I’m not older I think being a mom actually pushed me into this category. So when things are aimed towards this type of shopper I’m usually first in line to buy. Great post, Amy!

    • Amy Swanson

      It’s so cool there’s a category that does fit you so perfectly, Candice! After reading the description again, it totally does fit you 🙂 I hope companies are listening and taking note!

  2. Jill Tooley

    Very interesting!!

    I’d say I fall somewhere between “Hip-ennial” and “Clean and Green Millennial,” even though neither of them fit me exactly. I love technology as much as the next person, but my needs are pretty simple and BY NO MEANS do I run out to buy the newest gadgets when they’re announced (like some of my friends). But, I’m immensely cautious when buying products and I definitely consult social media to judge a brand’s enthusiasm about engagement. See, Millennials are even more complex than we’ve ever imagined! 😉

    Where do YOU fit in, Amy?

    • Amy Swanson

      I totally agree with you 100% Jill on your categories. Very interesting, indeed!

      Haha, how’s this for complex? I’m a combination of: “Hip-ennial” (I’m always hungry for information), “Anti-Millennial” (I love comfort and familiarity over change and interruption), and a splash of a “Gadget Guru” (I push and contribute to content online). I guess it works better for Millennials to be in as many categories as possible because it increases the chances a marketer can grab our attention with advertising.

  3. Rachel

    I think I’m closest to a “Hip-ennial,” mostly because I’m a cautious consumer, information hungry, and I use social media a lot but don’t really contribute to it much myself.

    I’ve always found this type of profiling of demographics quite fascinating, but it never makes sense to me why they don’t focus on shorter time spans. Ages 16 to 34? That’s less than 20 years, but it’s still such a huge range of experiences! That encompasses my older brother, who grew up in an entirely different generation than me and with an entirely different perspective on life, and my youngest cousins, who have never known life without the Internet. And then me in the middle. So many different perspectives and experiences there … it just seems like too large of a sample population, but maybe that’s just me. 🙂

    Anyway, this is still all really interesting! Thanks for breaking it down, Amy. 🙂

    • Amy Swanson

      While reading the study the first thing that crossed my mind was the wide age gap that was sampled. There’s a lot of differences between these ages that I think could give different results and skew the information. How many 16 year olds are out there doing their own shopping for green cleaning supplies? Probably a significantly smaller number than 34 year olds.

      The results from the study were quite fascinating, but I would love to see what the responses were based on age. My older cousins who are in their 30’s refuse to use any social media whatsoever, but that doesn’t mean the entire Millennial generation is anti-social media.

      I agree there are some flaws, but I’m glad you still found it interesting 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  4. Alex Brodsky

    I’d say I’m the closest to the Hip-ennial, cause I’m super hip (do the kids still use that word today?). I agree with Rachel that it’s far too wide of an age range, especially when looking at who you market a product for.

    There are things I use now, at the strapping age of 27, that I would NEVER have thought of buying when I was 20 years old (checkered shorts, I’m looking in your direction) and will certainly NOT be buying by the time I turn 32 (still looking at you, checkered shorts).

    Cool post, Amy!

    • Amy Swanson

      I’m right with you on the ages being too wide to really get a good representation. Using cars as an example; at sixteen I wanted a green Volkswagon Beetle, but now I would feel ridiculous driving one, and at 34 I may want a mini-van or a small SUV for carting around the kiddos with. Different ages have vastly different priorities that have to be taken into account.

      Since you brought it up, what kind of checkered shorts are we talking about? Like plaid ones? Or chess board print??

      • Alex Brodsky

        Mainly the plaid, but I think I have a pair of chess board print ones too (they may have accidentally been dyed a bit pink in a load of laundry though)

          • Eric

            If you’re talking plaid – namely, cotton madras – the good news is, it’s fashionable for the summer season regardless of age. However, you may want to opt for the lightweight pants as opposed to the shorts when you start getting up there in your years.

            They look dressier. They’re harder to notice when wrinkled (thanks, busy pattern!), and if you’re not feeling incredibly adventurous, get a paid with a monochromatic plaid.

            There’s my GQ moment for the day. The more [fashion] you know, kids.

  5. Mandy Kilinskis

    I am a hybrid: the Hip-ennial Gadget Guru. I’m definitely globally aware, hungry for information, and a huge social media user, but I also develop and push content, feel like this decade rules, and own a ridiculous amount of gadgets. I love gadgets: I begged and pleaded and demanded a Palm Pilot for my 11th birthday. (Note, I did not get a Palm Pilot, but I DID get a different PDA – SCORE.)

    But I’m still with Rachel and Alex here. 16-34 is a huge age difference. While 16-year-olds squeal over Justin Bieber, I network on Twitter, and my cousins in their early thirties don’t even have Facebook. Those are huge differences.

    • Amy Swanson

      You are totally a “Gadget Guru”, Mandy! You’re my go-to gal for anything tech related, haha.

      I really wish they would have split up the ages and given groups based on them. Like 16-21, 22-27, 28-33 groups. There’s still differences in maturity and goals, but at least a high school sophomore and a college freshman would have more in common with each other compared to a high school sophomore and someone completing their thesis in grad school 😉

  6. Jen

    I think if I had to categorize myself I would be in the Hip-ennial group. I use social media all the time, but I don’t contribute my own content. I am of below average employment and I am environmentally conscious (most of the time). I like to think I could make the world a better place 🙂 Great post Amy, this marketing is so interesting.

    • Amy Swanson

      Thanks Jen 🙂

      I find it so interesting that some people clearly fit into one category while others are a complex mixture. No one category is better than another, just different tastes and values.

      So glad you enjoyed this post and found it interesting!

  7. Eric

    Well, if it’s not painfully obvious which category I’d lean toward. The term (“Millenial”) is just grating, though, man. Grating. I understand marketing is incredibly dependent upon demographics to determine who is more likely to purchase their product than someone else. The fact, however, that they’ve created a generation that lumps together high school adolescents with folks who’re already with children and families? Completely defeats the idea of organizing people apart from another by demographic.

    Alright. It’s about that time to go and avoid the internet. 🙂

    Nice post, Amy.

    • Amy Swanson

      Yeahhhh, I’d love to know their logic with the lumping of that large of an age group together. It seems weird to me too. Maybe they wanted to get this study out and published ASAP so they cut a few corners? I’m not sure. It’s very odd though and does seem to defeat the purpose of segmenting an already large population into smaller groups.

      Now go be that “confident, independent, self-directed” old school millennial that we all know and love 😉

  8. Jeff Porretto

    Well, it looks like I’m a little late to this party, but I have to agree with everyone on the age disparity issue. I didn’t even have an internet capable computer until I was twenty. TWENTY. And I was on dial up…

    If you made it through school without Google or Wikipedia, your take on the world is juuust a little different.

    Luckily, computers and I go together like peas and carrots (thanks Forest), so despite my late start, I have a good bit of “Guru” in me. But I can see myself fitting into most of those other categories at one time or another.

    Another excellent post Swanson!

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