#129: Marketing to Millennials—What Writers and Copywriters Need to Know

Millennials tend to get a bad rap.

The stereotype is that of a spoiled, unemployed and highly educated 25-year-old living in mom and dad’s basement… playing video games, spending inordinate amounts of time on social media, binge-watching Netflix and just trying to “find their way.”

There might be some truth to that (the Millennial unemployment rate was almost 13% in 2016).

But check out these stats from Accenture:

  • There are approximately 80 million Millennials in the U.S., and they spend about $600 billion a year.
  • Millennials are those born between 1980 and 2000, so many are already in their 20s and 30s, and they have kids and an established career.
  • By 2020, their spending power is expected to increase to $1.4 trillion and represent 30% of all retail sales.

Sure, they may not have the spending power and wealth of Boomers. But it’s also unfair to lump them all into one category and assume they don’t matter.

Because they do!

And as a writer and copywriter, there’s a good chance that you’ll soon have to write for this demographic.

In this episode you’ll hear from my friend and colleague Kelly King of the 80-20 Agency. Kelly is a talented marketing strategist who has built a marketing firm that helps companies connect with Millennials.

She’ll explain how Millennials think differently… what their attitudes and values are… what they look for in a product or service… four common myths about this generation… and what writers and copywriters need to understand if they want their message to connect with them.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

Kelly King grew up in Canada. After attending college, she worked for a number of large brands, including Gatorade and Kraft.

After meeting her husband and moving to Indiana, she became an entrepreneur.

With the rise of social media, she started adding Millennials to her marketing team.

What is your value proposition to prospects?

Kelly’s agency combines old-school smarts with fresh creative. Kelly brings the fundamentals of marketing, strategy and messaging. Her Millennials bring fresh ideas and clever, high impact messaging. It’s a one-two punch.

What have you learned about the values, beliefs and attitudes of Millennials?

Millennials demand authenticity. They like things that are real. They want authenticity from brands—which means they don’t expect them to be perfect.

Millennials know when they’re being marketed to. They won’t tolerate anything that feels fake or overproduced.

They’re very socially conscious. They like brands that do good. Earlier generations wanted to look cool. Millennials will give up “cool” to do good in the world.

They like to belong.

They like recognition, which can mean likes or tweets.

They like things to be easy. They want the path of least resistance. They like hacks that will make their life easier, such as “Top ten tips for….”

They’re eager to learn. They want to grow and improve. They can be highly competitive and motivated.

They’re open minded. They’re open to different points of view. Most don’t identify with a particular religion.

They like flexibility and convenience, especially in their work environments. Sometimes, they’ll choose convenience over higher pay.

How do some of these traits pertain to marketing content? Let’s start with authenticity.

They like conversational messaging that feels real. They don’t like messaging that’s too formal or talks down to them. Messaging should be concise and have more white space.

When writing for Millennials, don’t use their lingo. You’ll sound like you’re trying too hard.

Be humble in your messaging. Don’t be pushy. Be personable and don’t take yourself too seriously.

How about social consciousness?

A survey asked Millennials to list their top ten brands. They were:

  1. Apple
  2. Target
  3. Nike
  4. Sony
  5. Coca-cola
  6. Samsung
  7. Walmart
  8. Amazon
  9. Microsoft
  10. Victoria’s Secret

Take a closer look at these brands to see what they’re doing. Make note of the writing style, visuals and promotions.

How about open mindedness?

Millennials have been exposed to lots of communication from a young age. They’ve seen more opinions from diverse groups. They’ve seen more discussions of religion and politics. They’re not married to the status quo. They’re more aware and open.

How about their desire to belong?

They want to be part of what’s going on. They want to be part of a cause. Being left out is hurtful. Being included is a powerful motivator.

What are some of the most common misconceptions you hear about Millennials?

Myth #1. Millennials are all alike. They’re not, of course. They’re all individuals. They do share some similarities, but they have different personalities. For them, it’s insulting to be treated like one homogenous group.

Myth #2. Millennials are lazy. People think Millennials are content to live with mom and dad. But often they’re just trying to be frugal and pay off student loans (which are much higher than they used to be). Many are very independent and motivated.

Myth #3. Millennials hop from job to job. Millennials don’t change jobs any more than Gen Xers. If they like they’re job, they’ll be loyal. They hop out of necessity.

Myth #4. Millennials are opposed to marriage. Millennials aren’t opposed to marriage. They’re just putting it off until they’re more established in their careers. They want to get it right the first time.

Myth #5. Millennials don’t want to be homeowners. They do want to buy homes, but they’re saving up first. They’re actually very financially savvy and aware.

What do copywriters need to keep in mind when communicating with Millennials?

Millenials are drawn to visuals. Graphics and video are good, but keep them short and sweet. You only have seconds to grab their attention so use an attention getting message or graphic to draw them in.

Keep text short too. Millennials are scanners, not readers. They want to receive information as quickly as possible. They’re efficient.

They want to be entertained. If content is entertaining, they’ll share it. Storytelling makes content more compelling. Clever captions are important.

They like interacting.

They appreciate learning tips. Lists work well: “Top five ways to…” or “Top ten things….”

Millennials will also share long content pieces if they’re really good. If you use long content, break it up with headings and bullets. Use bolding to facilitate scanning.

How can copywriters immerse themselves in Millennial attitudes, values and thinking?

Forbes, Inc., and Business Insider write a lot about this generation.

The book The Millennial Mind by Paula Limena is also insightful.

Go where Millennials go. Check out Casey Neistat on YouTube or Gary Vaynerchuck.

Find influencers on YouTube and immerse yourself. Get on YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.

Where can listeners learn more about you?

Kelly’s agency website:

80-20 Agency