Top 5 Differences Between Marketing to Millennials vs. Older Generations

Learn how these contrasts in generation change the way you market your products or services.

March 20, 2024

“Millennials differ from other generations in almost every way.” This is what a recent US Census report concluded. This generation of individuals born between 1985 and 2000 reflects the major changes that have been happening in society since the economic focus moved from working to knowledge. But, how does this affect marketing?

In this article, you will learn how these contrasts in generation change the way you market your products or services. In other words, what is the difference between targeting Millennials and targeting older generations? We selected five major points to answer this question:

  1. Millennials have a unique purchase decision process.

The way Millennials make their buying decisions differs from older generations mostly due to the elements that influence their choices. Individuals from older generations would watch an ad on TV or radio, go to the store, rely on the advice of the sales representative and buy the product.

Millennials, on the other hand, are highly informed; they grew up closely surrounded by information, and this environment made them careful shoppers. These individuals know what they want; they are conscious about the price and do not rely exclusively on the seller’s speech. Consequently, a Millennial’s purchase decision is, on average, influenced by five people, while an individual from an older generation, such as a Baby Boomer, has a network of around three influencers.

Millennials represent the generation of knowledge. They are not afraid to spend time researching products online, reading reviews and becoming informed before making their choices. Unsurprisingly, they are driven less by sales promotion initiatives and more by social trends, word-of-mouth, customization options and the opinions of influencers and peers.

Insight for marketers: Companies need to manage their reputations online and turn customers into brand advocates. A great way to do this is by fostering a long-term relationship with buyers and encouraging loyalty. Besides, helping customers during their information search by providing relevant content is a good way to create value and stand out as an industry expert.

  1. Millennials are more visual … and distracted.

Since older generations prefer informational materials, content with visual elements is not a necessity to them. These individuals primarily value reliable and rich, text-based materials that are helpful and rationally support their decisions.

Differently, Millennials seek visuals. It doesn’t matter if the content is entertaining, inspirational or educational; they need more than just text. This research shows that content with video or images has 94% more views than text-based information. This explains why predominantly visual networks, such as Instagram and Snapchat, are so popular among this generation.

Indeed Millennials value the diversity of media. These individuals grew up in an environment overloaded by information of different types. This caused them to be the most distracted generation yet. A recent Nielsen study showed that Millennials have lower program engagement and ad memorability scores than any other generation.

Insight for marketers: In the knowledge economy, Millennials’ attention is the new currency. Reaching this distracted audience is a challenge that can be overcome with relevant content supported by compelling visuals. Replacing straightforward commercial ads with brand storytelling videos is a great way to get their attention.

  1. Millennials are everywhere!

The short attention span that Millennials have is mostly caused by their multitasking habit. The main reason for this behaviour is that they fear missing the next trend or the latest news everyone is talking about. This is actually a new psychological phenomenon called Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

This way, Millennials are always dividing their attention between different tasks, and it makes it harder for them to retain information. Different from older generations, these individuals hardly focus on one thing or screen. They can sit on the couch with the TV on while simultaneously texting and liking pictures on social media. This difference in media consumption habits requires a new approach to marketing.

Millennials have many platforms competing for their “eyeballs”, and they are constantly switching between devices. Although this represents a tough competition for the audience’s attention, it also brings the opportunity for brands to extend their reach and disseminate a solid message throughout different channels.

Insight for marketers: Meet Millennials where they are! In order for marketing strategies to be effective in the current environment, the messages need to be consistently and harmoniously replicated everywhere Millennials are. Integrated marketing tactics with cross-media brand presence is an essential strategy when targeting this generation.

  1. Millennials deal differently with advertising.

The manner in which Millennials deal with advertising is much different than that of their parents. This is because Millennials are better informed than any other generation. The overload of information makes them easily bored, and technology gives the tools they need to “save time”.

It is unlikely they will watch a full video ad on YouTube when there is a skip button available. Besides, blocking ads online with browser extensions is common practice among this generation.

It is clear that traditional marketing is dying and Millennials are responsible. The major challenge now is to understand their behaviours and adapt marketing strategies to effectively reach them.

Insight for marketers: The best way to overcome Millennials’ aversion to advertisements is to market the brand by creating relevant content that establishes a mutual relationship with them. Even if the content is branded, the most important thing to Millennials is that it speaks to them.

  1. Millennials just don’t want to be sold to.

Finally, all these changes point to the same conclusion: simply put, Millennials do not want to be sold to; they want value! And how can you create value for Millennials? Do it by building an authentic brand that connects emotionally with them and that can be experienced.

This generation wants experiences that can be shared. They want more than just a good quality cup of coffee; they want a place with a unique atmosphere that allows them to experience the brand. Millennials are not interested in having cool things; they want to do cool things.

Insight for marketers: Make sure you are marketing more than just the features of your product or service. Focus on benefits, and create an interactive experience that makes your brand unique.

Overall, what we see now is that technology and the way Millennials use it is forcing marketing to be more multi-directional, especially because this growing market does not want to be interrupted by pop-up ads or irrelevant TV commercials. This generation wants recognition, a two-way conversation and a brand with which they share values.

Written by Bianca Gurgel