How to Sell to Millennials

 How do you sell to millennials? Well, this one clearly is far too cool to be effected by marketing.

How do you sell to millennials? Well, this one clearly is far too cool to be effected by marketing.

Everyone wants to know how to sell to Millennials. What makes millennials tick? Are they lazy? Are they entitled? Most companies are getting serious about reaching this generation because they aren’t kids anymore. They currently are responsible for about 25% of economic activity and by 2020 it could be as high as 35% of economic activity. That’s more than a third of all spending.

The idea out there seems to be that millennials are a mysterious group of humans who are entirely different in every way. They are impossible to connect with and they have no brand loyalty like their parents did.

Why are big businesses saying this?  In the interest of time, I will give you the answer right now so you don’t have to read the rest of the blog post. It’s because they are making excuses and don’t want to admit the obvious.

Brands that pay big money to big marketing firms are being advised by these “experts” that millennials don’t want to have anything to do with the brands their parents used so, out of rebellion they are looking for the new things. They will only respond to messaging that shows them to be independent from their parents, so they say.

Another claimed reason is millennials are visual while baby boomers and Gen X individuals apparently are not.  

There have been hundreds of articles written about how to sell to millennials, and how to make your brand appeal to millennials. They espouse Ideas like, “Millennials don’t care about quality” or, “millennials care about the social responsibility of their brands,” or, “you must sell millennials the idea of fun!” Yippee!

This of course, is absolute nonsense. Millennials don’t overwhelmingly chose IPhone because Iphone is more fun. They overwhelming believe deep down that their IPhone is better than anything else on the market. Thus, they are choosing quality.

Moosylvania did a study in 2015 which actually tried to get to the bottom of what was important to millennials. And imagine this, they actually talked to millennials about it rather than 57 year-old, white dude marketing gurus. Guess what millennial’s favorite brand is?.... drum roll….. NIKE!!! Yep, that company that operates sweat shops in china, makes shoes for $2 and then sells them for $200 to you and me.

Want to know another brand in the top 5 for millennials? How about….. WALMART!!! No joke. Look up the study for yourself. Millennials have no problems with legacy brands. They have no problem with socially irresponsible companies. In short, Millennials are just like their parents.

Just like every other generation of humans that has ever existed, there is a broad range of interests and values with millennials. Many are concerned about social issues (just like many of their hippy parents), many have very strong family values and are religious. Some are republicans, and some are democrats, and some are apathetic to politics… Just like their parents.

Well that is pretty anti-climactic. You thought you were going to learn how to sell to millennials. So, what gives? Why are brands having such a hard time connecting with Millennials?

If you understand the MARKETPLACE, you will quickly understand that the supposed lack of brand loyalty has nothing to do with which generation someone was born in and everything to do with the context of the marketplace.

It is imperative to understand that it is not human beings that all of a sudden changed starting in 1980 but that the marketplace and how goods reach consumers has changed.

The fact is this: the only reason brand loyalty ever existed at all is because consumers didn’t have brand choice!!! There is no such thing as brand loyalty. The industrial age, mass production, mass media, and mass marketing made brand choice possible but the industrial age is coming to an end. This entire way of looking at the world was flawed.

Business used to be conducted exclusively by the retail model. Due to the fact that retailers had to choose which products to carry, as a consumer, your decisions were made for you. You only had a couple brands to choose from of whatever it was that you needed. Furthermore, the mainstream media was in control of the information. You would never hear about a new brand of blue jeans unless the media decided to tell you about it. Now with the internet, the barrier to entry is almost zero. Anyone can start their own company and put out content about it. There can be any number of jeans companies. The consumer has choice now.

The only reason that millennials are being singled out is because they happen to be better at using the internet so they have been earlier adopters of Direct to consumer models and social media. Make no mistake about it though. Millennials are teaching their parents. Their parents are shopping and researching online.

It wasn’t that long ago my parents would call me to ask me how to turn on the VCR when they wanted to watch a movie. Now they are amazon prime members, Netflix subscribers, frequent youtube consumers, and Instagram/facebook users. By the way, my mom just added me on snapchat the other day.

It is really important to understand that humans will always be humans. Humans always relate to the world through stories. Every person has told themselves a story to make sense of the world. Many call this a worldview. We also tell ourselves stories to makes sense of our status, our financial situation, our class and everything else. A story is the only way we can understand the world. There is no way around it, story is the only medium we can understand. Story is something hardwired into humans.

Millennials are no more visual than any other generation. All human beings are visual. The reality is that we dream, we imagine, we replay memories, we think, and everything else we do in our minds, we do visually. We don’t see text scrolling across our minds. Humans are visual because it is our reality. Likewise, Millennials are no less loyal to brands than their parents. They are not more rebellious than their parents were. Doesn’t anyone remember that our parents were the hippies?

Millennials relate to the world the same as any other generation of human beings. Brands will thrive or be destroyed by understanding this simple truth. It’s not people that have changed. It’s the marketplace that has changed.

So, how do you sell to millennials? The same way you sell to anyone else. You tell your story in a way that resonates with their story. Just as importantly, you tell that story in the places that have their attention.

Millennials, as well as all other generations, long to connect. Every single person in this world wants to connect with the brands they purchase from. They want to connect with the messaging, the salespeople, the values, etc. Connect with millennials and you will be able to sell to millennials but don’t make the mistake of thinking that all millennials are the same. Millennials are as varied as all other generations which, should make this problem pretty easy to solve if you are a brand trying to figure out how to connect with millennials.