Why Your Millennial Marketing Sucks

You probably think the term Millennial means something. 

As marketers, we love talking about the difference between Millennials and Gen X. Mainly because we are probably Gen Xers and we think we are better than everyone else. But we also like it because labels make things easier. 

It’s easy to put large groups of people into buckets and build a media plan around that. How’s that working out for you? 

Part of the reason that you can’t connect to your audience (yes, let’s just call them that) is because you put a huge group of 71 million people, spanning 12 years of age, into one group and think they are all the same. 

What if we thought about audiences in stages or experiences? You are a different person when you are out at dinner with your friends or in the office at a meeting. Likewise, you are a different person your first year in college and your first year on the job. You respond differently in each situation. 



Let’s stop worrying about generational marketing and start thinking about situational marketing. Let’s figure out how to make each person feel like you get them, their situation, and have something unique of value to offer them.

You really have no idea what your audience wants. Even if you did, you would have no way to reach and connect with them — other than those awesome ads that the kids nowadays love so much. And that’s not totally your fault. 

It’s really hard to understand what it is like for college students today when you graduated 20 years ago. It’s even harder for you to communicate in a way that they can relate to without coming off as the dad or uncle that is trying too hard. They listen to each other. Your celebrity influencer is cute, but they value a peer’s opinion more.

You do need to figure this out. 

College students set the trends that will affect your market for decades to come. We all know that term, “All the cool kids say…” Sure, everyone wants to be cool again or stay cool, which is why you hear old people using the term dope (which is out now, BTW), but micro-trends like slang barely have time to germinate before they fall out of fashion.  

What happens while you are in college stays with you. College students have a discretionary spending power of almost $210 billion. They start making decisions for themselves without mom and dad telling them what to do. For the first time, they can choose what they want for themselves, and build their own brand preferences and loyalties. The best part, though, is that they are way more likely to recommend a brand that they are passionate about and feel like they can relate to.

This stuff is hard. If it were easy, we wouldn’t be reading marketing articles. Instead, we’d be rolling around in the piles of cash students were throwing at us. 

Every month, I am going to tackle a different aspect of the college experience and break down how students actually think about the world. Everything from fashion to fitness to studying to sex. What they like, what they don’t like, and why it matters to marketers. 

All of this comes straight from the source, from the students themselves. Next month, I’ll tackle their favorite topic — relationships. It might make you uncomfortable but, trust me, you need to know this stuff. If you don’t, your competition probably will.

2 comments about "Why Your Millennial Marketing Sucks".
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  1. michael ayer from RIGINAIR, May 5, 2017 at 10:12 a.m.

    Good article, some alternate article names:  "here are some round pegs for your square holes!" and "Generation Why?" and "College Kids Know it all....then move home"

  2. Katrina Melesciuc from Her Campus Media, May 10, 2017 at 9:36 p.m.

    Could not agree more, Umang. Excited to see companies like FlockU and Her Campus Media speaking to the college audience in their unique space, and also their unique way.

    This audience is also laser focused on authenticity. It takes the right brand and the right publisher / marketing channel to truly connect with them in a meaningful way. Yes it is imporant to target college students, but this audience is also the first audience to call out a brand who goes reaching them in the wrong way. At Her Campus Media, we've come up with a 360-degree solution for this. Looking forward to your next piece and hopefully collaborating in the future!

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