What makes marketing to Millennials different from Baby Boomers?


millennial-marketing-101Millennials (born 1980’s to early 2,000’s) are connected human beings who are “always on” and rely on digital mediums such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter to make informed buying decisions.

Often times based on their friends or peers purchasing habits. On the flip side, Baby Boomers are more passive and less dependent on peer reviews as validation.

Historically, parents and grandparents of Millennials have had more buying power with dollars yet less access to technology.

For brand marketers, selling to Millennials can be tricky. Because Millennials tend to make less money today than our parents did 30+ years ago or struggle to find employment in a competitive economy it’s all about adding value to the average Millennials life.

If you can be “hip and cool”, like Taco Bell and McDonalds who are on Snapchat — yet offer affordability — you’ve won over a Millennial.

Think American Eagle versus Burberry. For Baby Boomers, it’s all about transparency and how your brand fits into their busy lifestyle regardless of dollars and cents.

You can see in the examples below how the demographics of each brands followers drives its content.

Example: Out of 9.5 million fans of Facebook, the majority of American Eagle’s demographic profile is made up of 18-24 year olds.

american eagle facebook marketing

Millennials Want Savings, Baby Boomers are Lifestyle Focused 

Millenials love to save. Incentivize a Millennial to shop with you through the form of a coupon or free shipping and you’ve won a loyal customer who’s passionate about letting his or her friends know about where they shop.

As a retail brand, earning increased engagement via “Likes”, “Retweets”, and “Shares” should be well worth giving a few dollars away in free shipping. Millennials don’t care about why you’re brand is so great, they want to feel that you are making a difference to their bottom line – not yours.

See American Eagle’s Facebook post as an example:
How many of those 9.5 million 18-24 college students will hold out on a good meal or two in exchange for new clothes for the Spring/Summer in exchange for 60% off + free shipping on a $50 purchase

american eagle social media sale

By contrast see Burberry on Facebook:
At 15 million fans less than American Eagle, Burberry gains higher engagement and social click-through in terms of “Likes”, “Shares”, and “Comments” because they’re focused on aspirational value, and less about the direct sale as showcased above.

burberry social media

What Platforms are Millenials Most Engaged on? 

Millennials show affinity by liking, following, and pinning brand content.

As a digital leader in retail, my team’s objective is to engage this audience on various social channels through appealing visual content, short and concise brand messaging, actively engage in dialogue, and offer value whenever possible.

The struggle for most marketers today is making sense of the how these channels are uniquely different although the audience is the same in some – if not most – cases.

As a brand marketer, think of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Yelp, and Google+ symbiotic of each other no different than TV (Facebook), radio (Twitter), print (Pinterest), billboard (Instagram), and yellow pages (Yelp).

Often, the same brand message albeit via different delivery medium.


As of September 2013, Pinterest has over 70m users and, according to a study by Shareaholic, Pinterest is driving more traffic to publishers than Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Google+ combined. Pinterest is also winning the battle for Millennial market share in terms of purchasing activity.

And, with over 4 million followers, retailers such as Nordstrom are winning the battle amongst retailers actively using the platform. Nordstrom has successfully created a social commerce platform by linking it’s “pins” to its website where users can purchase “hot” and trending items found on Pinterest.

nordstrom pinterest top pins

According to a Pinterest study, 47% of users with a Pinterest account purchased something online after pinning it. That’s more than Facebook or Twitter. (source: Pinterest research.)


I often refer to Instagram as the “Hallmark card” of social media, the challenge for brands is now:
How do I gain instant validation by a millennial via a “Like”?

Easy, have engaging and appealing content that stands out.

The bigger objective is:
How do I activate Instagram to grow sales?

That’s where it becomes a double-edged sword. Because Instagram doesn’t allow users to click-through links from it’s platform, brands must rely on strong call to actions or simply “Kick ass content” that’s going to compel an end-user to either exit the app altogether and purchase online or visit the retailer offline.

It can be done however. Using Forever 21 as an example, popular amongst Millennial female shoppers and teens, their content is straight out of a brands Spring catalog: Latest fashion trends, accessory tips, and that “coolness” factor that resonates with their audience.

millennial marketing forever21

“Old school” Rules of Marketing Still Apply

In conclusion, marketing is sales. Social media gives your brand the opportunity to build an engaged consumer community which grows loyalty that fuels long-term sales. Millennials don’t need to be oversold but it doesn’t hurt to remind them what value your brand adds. Be personable and engage in one-on-one dialogue to build that trust and loyalty.

If you want to keep a Millennial as a “customer for life” you need to speak back to them when they are speaking about you.

Last year, due to bad weather I missed a flight and subsequently sent out a series of tweets to Expedia, US Airways, and Southwest Airlines which all were responded to within an hour. As a result, I continue to do business with the same brands that have earned my trust and loyalty. There are many who do social media community management really well and others that don’t.

Keep building relationships and make your customer feel valued, its “old school” marketing of the customer is always right with a new school twist.


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