Marketing to Millennials: How to Do it Best

There are roughly 80 million millennials in the U.S., making this emerging generation a driving force for the economy.

If you’re a business owner, it pays to attract a millennial demographic and keep them interested. However, marketing to millennials has its challenges. Most people in this generation were raised with a level of technical literacy that still evades a lot of business owners. As a result, some brands make the mistake of thinking that a static social media account is all they need to tap into this lucrative market. However, effective marketing is never that simple.

Millennials will represent 1/3 total retail sales by 2020, so if they’re not part of your marketing strategy, you stand to lose out on a great deal of trade. To help you future-proof your business, here are some tips to help you engage a millennial demographic.

What are the best marketing methods for millennials?

1. Cross-channel marketing

Millennials are often labeled “digital natives” because they have grown up with technology as we know it today. In their daily lives, they live and breathe digital media. In 2015, it was reported that 75% of 18-35-year-olds relied on multiple devices, which is why they responded best to cross-channel marketing.

The same study showed that Gen X and baby boomer viewers generally focused their attention on the TV when watching a program, whereas millennials were more likely to scroll through their phones at the same time. This culture of multitasking often has the younger generation switching between devices during their “downtime.”

Although there are many reports of dwindling attention spans in millennials, this preference for hopping between devices can actually be beneficial to brands. By dividing your marketing into multiple platforms, you can extend your reach across popular channels. If your marketing content is relevant to a popular TV broadcast, for example, you can leverage that by promoting a post in real-time on Twitter or Facebook to target a specific viewing audience.

  • Who does it best?

One example of cross-channel marketing in action is a recruitment campaign by the US Armed Forces. The aim was to reach a highly specialized group of people who would make good candidates for cryptology positions in the Navy. Here, the brand told a story about an enemy who kidnaps the engineer of a secret Navy weapons project, resulting in a social media-driven alternate reality game.

The audience were invited to log onto social media and help solve the series of clues to get closer to locating the enemy. The project attracted thousands of players, who were the right kind of people for potential cryptology recruits.

2. Participation campaigns

Studies show that millennials value experiences over possessions, so it’s important for brands and marketers to work this into their campaigns. Cue, participation marketing.

Much like the example of the U.S. navy recruitment drive above, participation marketing is about creating a relationship between the brand and its consumers. It might be promotional, but its main aim is to draw audiences in and achieve ongoing engagement where the audience can become part of a compelling brand story.

Participation campaigns might include:

  • Sponsored events
  • Branded art installations
  • Immersive blog content
  • Interactive web content
  • Influencer marketing
  • Video content
  • Who does it best?

A great example of participation marketing occurred in April 2014, when Starbucks announced its White Cup Contest. Within the contest, customers were invited to decorate a white Starbucks cup and submit an Instagram photo using the hashtag #whitecupcontest. The winning design was then printed on a reusable Starbucks cup. The campaign generated more than 3K posts, emphasizing a personal connection with its customers.

3. Live stories

Not convinced by the marketing power of social stories? It was recently reported that 57% of females and 48% male in the U.S. use Snapchat Stories on a daily basis, along with 61% teenagers. Instagram Stories boasts similar numbers and is used by 52% males and 43 of females. However, only 7% of Facebook’s users share their videos through Facebook Stories. This shows that it’s not just about the method you use to attract an audience, it’s also about the platform.

The benefits of branded stories:

  • Increased brand awareness
  • Round-the-clock engagement with followers
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Increased traffic to your website
  • Ability to reach a younger audience
  • Who does it best?

In May 2017, Nike was the first brand to create its own programmed event using Twitter’s Live Player. The popular brand live-streamed three marathon runners on Twitter attempting to do the first ever sub-two-hour marathon. Nike used a variety of Twitter tools to keep people engaged throughout the race.

“This was the first time a brand was seizing that opportunity to go live with their own content instead of sponsoring live content. They created the content themselves, and it was a smart way to engage consumers and drive conversation about the brand and the event.” – Minero spokesperson.


This live event generated over 20K mentions and 58.7K likes on social media. You don’t have to be Nike to benefit from branded stories, however. Stories are arguably the most trending social media marketing, enabling users to create photo and video collections that can be viewed for 24 hours before they are deleted. As such, stories allow you to post more without tarnishing your brand’s appearance.


Overall, these statistics and examples show that marketing to millennials is crucial if you want your business to thrive. There are several ways to do this, but a cross-channel, content-driven strategy is usually best.

When implementing a millennial marketing campaign, you should focus on these vital takeaways:

  • Focus on customer experience rather than products.
  • Be transparent. Offer insights into your business through branded stories and social media campaigns.
  • Invite your audience to become involved in your marketing efforts.
  • Give consumers a voice. Invite them to review your products, tweet about your brand or share photos of your products.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should ignore other demographics; just that you shouldn’t dismiss a generation that makes up almost 1/3 of the entire U.S. population. Millennials are the future, so is your business ready?

Timothy Kelly

Timothy Kelly

Tim has been a writer for over 20 years covering financial markets and small business. In addition to writing about the financial markets, Mr. Kelly writes extensively about digital marketing and SEO. Mr. Kelly attended Boston College where he studied English Literature and Economics, and also attended the University of Siena, Italy where he studied studio art. Mr. Kelly has been a decades-long community volunteer in his hometown of Long Island where he established the community assistance foundation, Kelly's Heroes. He has also been a coach of Youth Lacrosse for over 10 years. Prior to volunteering in youth sports, Mr. Kelly was involved in the Inner City Scholarship program administered by the Archdiocese of New York. Before creating ForexTV, Mr, Kelly was Sr. VP Global Marketing for Bridge Information Systems, the world’s second largest financial market data vendor. Prior to Bridge, Mr. Kelly was a team leader of Media at Bloomberg Financial Markets, where he created Bloomberg Personal Magazine. Contact Tim