How To Advertise To A Millennial

Every generation is drawn to different marketing techniques. Many businesses are specifically fascinated by what makes millennials click that Confirm Purchase button, since they were the first generation to grow up in an age where the internet became a way of life. Pew Research Center categorizes millennials as those people born between 1981-1996.

"Generational cutoff points aren’t an exact science. They should be viewed primarily as tools. For analytical purposes, we believe 1996 is a meaningful cutoff between Millennials and Gen Z for a number of reasons; including key political, economic and social factors that define the Millennial generation’s formative years."

-Pew Research Center

So I sat down with millennials within the entire spectrum of this age group (22-37 years old) for a candid interview of the advertising techniques they buy into and which fall flat.

Interview Questions:

  1. Can you tell me what your occupation is and your education background?
  2. What do you think is a common misconception people have about marketing to your generation?
  3. What marketing methods make you buy or participate in something?
  4. What type of advertisements typically lead to a purchase for you?
  5. How do you think your generation is different from others, as far as marketing goes?
  6. Do you follow any brands on social media? Why did you start following that brand online?
  7. What would you like brands to understand about your interests and the things you would pay to have?

Jason Weinrich
(26 years old)

  1. I am the General Manager of Harbor Marketing. We do website development and marketing for businesses in the Sacramento Valley and beyond. I graduated in 2014 with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in Project Management.
  2. I think there’s a misconception that we have to play into trends to relate to a cohort. If you have a good product or service, it doesn’t have to play into the gimmick of a trend. If it’s a “trend” that means it’s going to end eventually.
  3. In my purchasing habits, I would say the lead thing for me is if a trusted source uses the product. Content, like a tutorial how-to video, coming from people who are actually using the product works best. Also when a sample of that person’s work is shown through the YouTube platform. I would like to think I defend against all the advertising I see on the internet. Although, does remarketing really well through Google Ads. I go to their website and visit a certain page 3 or 4 times and they leverage that information very well. They remarket those items I’ve looked at, then I’m always thinking about that particular thing and eventually buy it. I found B&H through a Google search when looking for products. They’re like the flagship store out of New York. They have great competitive prices and list on Amazon as well. Consumers seem to be changing from trusting of a larger brand to individuals that they've subscribed to and followed. The personal connection to an individual is stronger than the larger organization brand.
  4. Most of my purchases are spent on photo/video/audio equipment. Seeing products being used in other places has been a big influence on me. If I go to a conference and see what kind of equipment they use behind the scenes, it validates that product for me. Seeing people shooting with Canon re-emphasizes that it’s quality and something I want to buy.
  5. I’m not very active on social media. Yeti Coolers does some really good storytelling in their work on YouTube. I also follow Sierra Nevada and Upper Park Clothing Co. on Instagram. I was surprised to see such an impressive presentation and it’s fun to see something local to the town I grew up in. It definitely made me nostalgic for Chico when I moved out of the area and was cool to see someone turn the local park into an entire brand focused on getting outdoors and going hiking. I also follow a bunch of other breweries...New Belgium in Fort Collins because I lived in Fort Collins. Usually with brands, my consumer habits are based on location, which helps establish connection. I would rather drive by their brick and mortar stores and feel a sense of connection than just buy something online. Like if I could tour Canon’s facility that would be awesome.
  6. Quality is paramount for me and there’s something to be said about not withholding functionality because you have market share. I really could care less about the packaging and social media presence of a brand.
  7. If you’re looking to market to a 50+ age group, TV and print are great. People that age have the evening news on and it can still be effective but definitely depends on who you’re going after. I do still enjoy seeing things in print. I would say maybe a magazine would be the most effective of traditional print methods.

Gina Nuccio
(22 years old)

  1. I am a marketing coordinator and majored in Business Marketing and minored in Psychology.
  2. Just in general, a misconception is that we are lazy or obsessed with technology and our phones. I don’t think that’s really the case. It’s just what we grew up’s partly generalizing and partly just how the world works now. I feel like it’s a catch 22 where part of it is that I don’t think I’m easily affected by influencers or celebrities but if there IS someone I trust, like an influencer, that’s where I would get those tips. A misconception is that any famous person promoting a product makes us want to buy something but I still want to trust the person I’m taking the recommendation from. I want to know that I’m not getting scammed.
  3. I would say the people I follow online do heavily influence my decisions. Just recently, I was looking to buy collagen. Almost everyone I know who takes collagen uses the brand Vital Proteins but in my research, I found it leaves a weird aftertaste for some people. Wanting more of a sure thing in whatever brand I ended up purchasing from, I turned to the trusted influencer I follow on Instagram. She uses a brand I'd previously heard of, Further Food, but took the time to describe her experience with the product in detail. She even made a point to say that she's particular about taste and texture and that she's a satisfied customer herself. This made me feel more confident in the Further Food brand and is what ultimately led to choosing that brand over the competitors.
  4. I don’t really watch commercials anymore, so ads work in the sense that they’ll peak my interest on Instagram then I’ll research them and come to a decision myself. I’m pretty skeptical, so it only goes so far. Things that make me want to buy stuff are brands that care, relate to my interests, and are engaged. Ones who are keeping it interesting on social media. Companies who promote eco-friendly products or are making an effort to help the world makes me more inclined to buy from them. If it’s for my health, then I am pretty lenient with price.
  5. So definitely as the millennial generation we grew up with technology. That’s where we receive our information and can find the truth for ourselves. We don’t really watch TV and if we do we’re fast forwarding commercials, so the need to find new ways like social media to reach our generation is important and that’s definitely different than other age groups.  
  6. I follow Glossier and Rituals Cosmetics on social media. I just love their stuff and their packaging is so aesthetically pleasing. I love to follow Goop for all things skincare, fashion, and lifestyle. Even though most of their stuff is above my price range, I like the information they share and it helps me to find similar products at a better price.
  7. My interests are revolved around internal health and skincare. I feel like a lot of times I’m influenced and want to buy something, but even with discount codes things are really expensive. I know what I like and don’t like, but don’t necessarily know which brand to go with. That’s when I turn to ambassadors to help make that decision.

Carli Parisi
(24 years old)

  1. I have a double major in International Relations and Spanish. I work at Dutch Bros as a barista and am an intern at OMPT (One Mobile Projector Per Trainer).
  2. Only using models and people that look the same doesn’t work for our generation because millennials like to see diversity but traditionally it's been the same type of look.
  3. By far social media advertising is the marketing method that makes me want to buy something, 100 percent. I can't think of the last time I bought something that wasn't promoted on social media. Even if it’s just learning about new brands I like. Not even just from the pop up ads...but those also get me.
  4. Because I learn about new trends through social media, I also learn where to buy those things. I normally look for beauty products and clothes online.
  5. Older people were more marketed by celebrities. Back then, celebrities started trends and it's not like that as much anymore. There's definitely a movement to feel less corporate for smaller companies. If things are recyclable, not tested on animals, vegan or environmentally friendly that gets my attention. Now it's more about what influencers do. You feel like you know them and you feel like they have an expertise. So for me, skincare or fitness are areas of products I'm interested in.
  6. I follow Glossier on social media. I started following them because my roommates did. I also follow Goop, Everlane, Madewell, Free People. They put out good content that's attractive. The branding is unique to each company. When I think of the company name, I can immediately picture their branding on social media.
  7. I'm definitely interested in quality, especially when it comes to clothing. I'm also really attracted to things that don't go out of style, especially at this age when I’m transitioning into adulthood. I’ve been looking for pieces I can build my own personal wardrobe with that will last. I've also been developing an adult makeup routine that's still fun, with products that feel young and fresh!

Josh Brodleit
(36 years old)

  1. I am a web developer and have a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, with a minor in Political Science.
  2. A common misconception about our generation is that we don’t like to read.
  3. Reading reviews online is huge. I almost always use the web to research something before I make a purchase. So if I go on Amazon, I look for 5 star reviews and read what people say about a product. I’m a big online shopper, so that’s probably my biggest resource for trust in products.
  4. I’m visual, so if I can see the product and what it does, that’s helpful for me personally. Any visual, it could be on YouTube, showing “how this works” helps sell me. Like for example, I was building a fence for my brother-in-law recently and Googled “how to build a gate anti-sag kit.” I read some reviews but then I went to YouTube to look at different potential products and how they work. YouTube would definitely be a way to market to me. I looked at the videos to see the installation process of different gates. Show me. Don’t tell me.
  5. Millennials are smart in that we've learned that less is more. Older generations tend to want to stick a lot of copy in their marketing collateral and communicate every value proposition, when that’s not as focused and not as simple. That’s something millennials especially have really gravitated towards. We don’t need or want a lot of information. Just things that are clear and concise. It’s all about getting information quickly and fast and that happens when your message is clear. I get razor burn, so I go online and search for beard trimmers. There are literally 500 brands online. There’s so much competition in the market and I don’t want to sift through ads with info I don’t care about. I want to know how the product works, how much it costs, what it looks like and where I can get it.
  6. There are brands I follow on Twitter but that’s mostly work related. I follow Expression Engine and PHP developers to see the trends and what they’re working on. I can also see updates on products we work with.
  7. I would like brands to know that they should show me. Don’t tell me. The use of visuals and video is important...infographics work. Methods that communicate information quickly. Also, a lot of brands make the mistake of talking about themselves instead of what they’re going to give a customer. “Less is more” is key. It’s beyond the marketing. It’s about focusing your business. Dollar Shave Club sells razor blades. Their marketing is super creative but they don’t try to do everything in the world. They do one thing well and market to that specifically. Gatorade is a drink. They don’t show every single product they offer (like gummy bears and vitamin packs) in their marketing. Their commercials are specifically about the drink. That’s effective. Keeping the message simple.

Rachel Worley
(31 years old)

  1. I am a third grade teacher with a background in Liberal Studies and a multiple subject credential. I work at a public charter school.
  2. A common misconception about our generation is that we are easily fooled. Also that TV commercials work - they don’t. Another misconception is that we’re influenced by celebrities. I think about things that irritate me, like at the gas station when the speaker is repeating this phrase to go inside and get a refreshment. In your face repetitive ads tend to backfire with our generation. I am probably going to do the opposite. When people outwardly tell me what to do or buy, I do the opposite.
  3. I am definitely influenced by what my friends use. When I see something in its natural intended state, like if I go to my friends house and I see that they’re using a certain product that smells good, I ask where they got it. If I see something that works for someone I know, then I wonder if it would work for me. I think that’s why direct marketing has had such a huge impact on people our age because it’s based on results or word of mouth. Pinterest and social media definitely work if the content is eye-catching. When I look at Pinterest and see a room that’s really pretty, I’m going to go out and find the small items that can make my room pretty too. As a teacher, I use Pinterest as one of my first sources for anything in my classroom in regards to modern methods of lesson planning and creating a more comfortable classroom environment for my students.
  4. Ads that blend in to what I’m already looking at are more likely to lead to a purchase, like Instagram posts for example. Magazines showing gift ideas or products if they’re displayed in a lifestyle format does work for me. Like Magnolia or Bella Grace, where it’s coming from sources that I already follow and am interested in.
  5. There are so many different sources of marketing now that we get to pick and choose what we find relevant. Older generations are used to traditional methods of advertising, where we are very social media based.
  6. When it comes to brands I follow on social media, the one that comes to mind is Natural Life. I believe they did sponsored ads that were in my Instagram story feed. I realize that whenever I’m out shopping, I’m drawn to their brand and the message that they want to portray to their customers. So I started following them and often repost things that they post. I follow Rachel Hollis and got her “Start Today Journal” and her latest books. I follow all Magnolia Market things. I actually follow teachers who have “Teachers Pay Teachers” stores. I like seeing their pictures and videos of the lessons that they’ve done and I’ll go buy that lesson. Also Glossier. Sierra Nevada. Anthropologie and Free People for style inspiration. They all identify a part of me. It’s the style I want. It’s the message I want my life to portray! The brands I follow are a reflection of me.
  7. I would like brands to understand that I don’t want you to tell me about stuff that isn’t relevant to me. There’s a good chance I won’t buy it anyways. Find things that are relatable and useful and practical. And affordable! I think the most effective ads are the ones that blend in.


Although every person is unique with different interests, habits and budgets, we found that there are still come consistencies with millennials. Trust is a key component in purchasing decisions and this generation does not like being told what to buy. They want to connect with a brand or product, do research on its value and then purchase if they determine it to be a quality investment. We hope you can use this information to hone in on which marketing methods will work best for getting the message out about the product or service you provide. If you would like more information about how our agency can help you implement these strategies, don't hesitate to reach out!

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