To Win Millennial Customers Understand Them Don’t Mock Them

ID 127425604 © Artur Szczybylo |

To Win Millennial Customers Understand Them Don’t Mock Them

We’ve heard the term “me, me, me generation” and that millennials are lazy and self-obsessed over and over again. The major news outlets quoting stats hasn’t helped. Hasbro even made a Monopoly for Millennials. Not everyone was amused though. Whether you buy into the stereotypes or not, the so-called ‘me me me’ generation is here. Their presence as the largest generation in history, until Gen Z, will shape commerce to come as they not only buy from existing businesses but become the next round of business leaders. So, don’t fight the tide, swim with it. If you want to win millennial customers you need to understand them. Leave mocking to the trolls.

Emotional Response

Millennials have emotional responses to brands. This may be because helicopter parenting caused emotional issues and a limited ability to cope with negative experiences. Alternatively, they may prefer to like who they give their money to knowing that their money is what helps keep businesses around.

An FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) study showed 48% of millennials will buy from a brand run by people they know over a brand where they have no such connection. That report also reflected 47% want brands to take responsibility when something goes wrong and to listen and act on customer reviews.

MBLM conducts a Brand Intimacy Report based on emotion. In 2017 the report revealed five of the top ten brands for millennials were in the media and entertainment space with Disney at number one (with another three that crossed over into that: Apple, Amazon and Google).

In 2019 Youtube is number one (it was number ten in 2017) and Apple number two.  The millennial top five were different from the overall top five of those surveyed. It is clear that media and entertainment brands have the greatest emotive pull for this generation. What do those industries do well that you can apply to yours?

Expected Personalization

Millennial personalization with coffee example ID 113342531 © Rawpixelimages |
Millennials want brand experiences as personalized as their coffee

The internet and doting parents taught this generation to believe everything should cater to them, not the other way around, including experiences and brands. They want to be individuals, not just numbers. That’s not just a millennial idea, but a basic human one. Businesses can win the millennial audience by reaching out to them in a personalized way. Knowing their preferences or at least knowing when they were last in the store is a start.

Some studies and articles blame this kind of demand for personalized service on millennial selfishness. From a 2013 Time article: “58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982. millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that a recent study showed that 40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance.”

Is there really anything wrong with positive expectation as opposed to the expectation that  the roof might collapse at any moment? How can you leverage this preference for personalization to gain and keep millennial customers?


Again, access to technology and a parent who immediately is there to pick up the dropped toy and give it back to the child created a demand for immediate gratification

“The relentless focus on simplifying the user interface at Apple, Amazon, Google and lesser-known technology players has set a new standard of intuitiveness across the tech industry that millennials accept as the norm.” – “For Small Business Week: All About Millennial Consumers And Millennial-Friendly Customer Experiences” – Forbes

Much of the millennial generation, and most of Gen Z, grew up with omnichannel access to everything and everyone. Some knew how to swipe and tap before they knew how to read or even speak. Millennials are more apt to use their phone to text and run apps than to make calls.

So how does your company website look on a tablet or on a phone?  Do you take customer inquiries by text and social media?


They were told a good education would equal a good job. Many millennials expected just that only to graduate into the great recession with a fat debt and a job at Starbucks if they were lucky. They do not trust easily and brand loyalty is harder to achieve with them.. As mentioned before, millennials seek emotional connection with brands.

Traditional advertising isn’t going to cut it. In the McCarthy Group millennial survey of 2014 84% of respondents indicated they do not like advertising.

One way millennials learn to trust a brand is through other consumers. They tend to research reviews and the opinions of other customers influence their decisions.

Other sources millennials turn to are Youtube and social media. They have an emotional connection with influencers and trust their recommendations more than traditional ads. Influencers also understand the millennial focus on entertainment and the desire to support businesses they believe in.

Are you maximizing your social reach in an entertaining and authentic way? What influencers can you take tips from to up your millennial marketing game?


Diverse Millennials value ethical companies, causes and transparency ID 77457809 © Rawpixelimages |
Millennial Customers want to buy from ethical businesses

Deloitte said that despite the uncertainty about the future that this generation and the next feels, one of the major findings of it’s Millennial Survey of 2018 is about what they want from businesses: “millennials and members of Generation Z want them to drive societal and economic change, presenting an opportunity for employers to win back their loyalty. They have a long way to go, though.”

Uh-oh. That ‘long way to go’ sounds all gloom and doom. It is just a clear call to action for businesses to make changes that have lasting positive impact on the world as well as their bottom line.

Millennials are interested in sustainability, social justice and transparency. They are even willing to pay more for brands that reflect these values.

This generation ushered in the ‘sharing economy’. Goods and services are ‘rented’ instead of owned, which reduces cost burden and allows access for more people. They may not be able to buy a brand new Tesla but they might be able to swing an Uber ride.

This group doesn’t have the same percentage of disposable income as the boomers. That might be why they are more thoughtful about where they spend it. If you want them to spend on your brand know that they pay attention to what you say to see if it matches what you do.

How transparent are you about how your product is made? Are you involved in any program that gives back whether locally or to a world charity? Your millennial customers want to know.

If You Want to Win Millennial Customers Don’t be Basic

Face it, millennials are the largest generation in history with massive potential consumer spend. They aren’t just numbers though, and aren’t content with being treated like statistics. They have their preferences just like every generation before them. Preferences created by the world and times they were raised in. Understand that and you could have the best customers yet.

Are you ready for them?

Now where is that triple shot unicorn latte with two pumps of vanilla, double whipped cream, sprinkles and a paper straw?