The millennial generation is often clumped into one, with assumptions that they are tech-savvy, self-absorbed, and overburdened with student debt. While this may be true for some of this group’s members, generalizing Gen Y negatively can cause businesses to miss out on this powerful demographic.

Millennials are a diverse group of individuals born between 1982 and 2000. Some remember a time before having the internet at home, and others can’t imagine life without Facebook.

Still, there are common characteristics that all millennials share that can be utilized to create an efficient marketing campaign. One such commonality is that millennials are overburdened with student debt. Close to 63 percent of millennials are expected to hold a Bachelor’s degree, and those don’t come cheap for the majority of students. The national student debt counter in the United States has long exceeded the $1 trillion mark and is constantly growing.

Another similarity within Gen Y is their use of social media. According to 2014 numbers collected on millennial social media and internet use, 93 percent of millennials access the internet and use some form of a social media account. This means marketing to millennials should be easy, as social media campaigns that focus on data will provide companies with all the information they need to know about millennial customers; from what they buy to what they’re saying about brands or products.

This is huge news for marketers, and further underscores the importance of reaching the millennial generation. They may be struggling with debt, but evidence suggests that millennials still spend money with companies that they have grown to love.

Why? Because these companies have unique characteristics that make them stand out to the millennial market.

3 keys to successful millennial marketing

Demonstrate that your brand cares about sustainability

Millennials are often assumed to be self-absorbed, but this is a huge misconception. Due to millennials’ consistent use of social media, they are frequently exposed to views and opinions that are not their own. This has led to what some researchers are deeming “a new form of empathy.” It goes to show that millennials care just as much about others across the world as they do about themselves.

A survey performed in 2014 by the Nielsen Global Survey Group found that millennials were the demographic most concerned about social responsibility. They explained: “[Millennials] represent 51 percent of [respondents across generations] who will pay extra for sustainable products and 51 percent of those who check the packaging for sustainable labeling.” Some have even argued that millennials are changing the way companies brand themselves.

Give back to the community

Companies that share their message of giving back to the community don’t just make the employees feel better about the company; they make the consumer feel better about their purchases too.

Businesses that build an online marketing strategy that shows how much they care for humans around the world can match the “new empathy” of millennials. One brand that has skyrocketed into success with this idea is Toms shoes.

Tom’s One for One Campaign was an instant hit when it was announced in 2006, and has since grown to encompass shoes, glasses, water, bully-prevention, and female reproductive health. Millennials and others were struck by the simple message and the ability to help others simply by purchasing stylish shoes for themselves.

Other companies such as Dove Soaps have seen a spike in sales due to millennial investment. When Dove released their “Real Beauty” campaign in 2014, it was an instant hit online. It proved to be a worthy cause as Dove saw a steady increase in sales over the next couple of years.

Businesses can learn from these examples and find ways to work similar messages into their own social media strategies. When creating content, find ways to include your company’s social responsibility campaign; from a new recycling program to a new partnership with the Humane Society of America, or whatever your company’s chosen cause may be.

Of course, millennials also love humor and lightheartedness, so be sure to keep your messages varied. You never want to overdo one over the other, but instead find a balance between sales, memes, and company messages.

Remember that honesty is the best policy

Millennials aren’t just swayed by green energy and activism. Gen Y also cares deeply about honesty and brand integrity. As many marketers and millennials have noted, this generation craves transparency and authenticity. They will only give attention to campaigns that are honest and engage with them, that show them what happens behind the scenes and not just flashy ads. This can be seen in company branding, the job market, and even in politics.

Honest and truthful marketing campaigns are often the most powerful for reaching swaths of people, not just millennials. When companies take the opportunity, to be honest about mistakes and provide transparency for their consumers, they often see benefits, particularly in their brand image.

In a world where information can be spread rapidly through social media, mistakes can be impossible to erase. Staying true to your company’s message and proving that you have the ability to learn from your mistakes will no doubt win you favor among Gen Y and improve your business.


At Nicklaus Marketing we know the amount of time and effort it takes to target market to specific demographics. Understanding and interacting with popular demographics will help you gain positive attention, build trust, and maintain lasting customers. Call us at 973-538-0450 or visit our Social Media Management or Marketing Strategy services page.