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5 Tips for Advertising & Marketing to Millennials

Our survey, Mastering the Millennial Mindset of Today, uncovered data and insights about marketing to millennials. Our very own Dave Neway shares tips to market to this audience based on original research with Provoke Insights.

Meredith Cunningham Published: October 12, 2022
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By Dave Neway, VP of Ad Sales Marketing, TEGNA 

Our story begins approximately 12 years ago​ when one couldn’t read an article in the trades without seeing a focus on millennials. Our industry was infatuated with understanding this newest, hippest generation on the block, and for good reason! ​ 

Who are Millennials?

According to Pew Research, millennials are individuals born between 1981 and 1996. They were shaped by events such as 9/11, the internet boom, and the recession of 2008. Student debt has also played a significant role for millennials, who earn more but hold less wealth when compared to previous generations.  As a result, millennials are more likely to complete significant milestones later in life. In the 2010s, the median marriage age was 30 years, compared to 23 years old in the 1970s. 

For brands looking to engage with millennials, it’s essential to understand the dynamics that shaped their worldviews. A strong brand is not enough to guarantee a sale with today’s consumers. 

Why are Millennials So Sought After by Advertisers?

​Millennials are 72 million strong in the US, comprising 23% of the world’s population – bigger than Gen Z and Gen X (both have around 65M). ​We’ve admired their strength in numbers and tried to wrap our brains around their attitudes and behaviors, making some sweeping generalizations about their deepest desires and needs, including:​ 

  • Millennials love experiences versus “things.”​ 
  • Millennials will be much better off financially than their parents. 
  • Millennials are mobile-first! This generation will be tethered to their phones morning, noon, and night!  ​ 
  • They’re not interested in traditional rites of passage, like home ownership.​

But then, the world changed in some unimaginable ways.  

  • No one could’ve predicted we’d be where we are now, and given how much the world has shifted, what does this portend for our dear millennials?

As we plan for the future of advertising, how should brands REALLY be thinking about millennials in this new normal, and how do we reach them more effectively using first-party data – the currency of our new digital economy?  ​

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How to Market to  the Real Millennials of the New Normal​

Millennials are not monolithic, and therefore, your media plan shouldn’t be either, so here are a few recommendations to help ground your thinking: ​ 

  1. Target Based on Life Stage Instead of Age.  While millennials are a highly diverse group, we identified a commonality from our study: life stage and habits are far more important predictors of behavior than age. Advertisers would do well to apply life-stage and/or behavioral targeting on top of any age-based targeting to ensure you’re reaching the type of millennial who’s most likely to take action based on your ad.     
  1. Prioritize Personalization and Immediacy.  Most millennials, likely because of their coming of age amid the dot com boom, place a premium on immediacy, and nearly half would switch to products they receive sooner. Loyalty is also fleeting among millennials, as half will switch brands if their trust in a brand is broken. Consumer concerns about data and privacy make personalization more critical than ever and especially effective when it’s enshrouded in brand trust and purpose. 
  1. Think Local. A whopping 80% of millennials report being engaged in their local community. In fact, those who are active locally find themselves happier, more confident, and wealthier.  Brands thinking locally and leading by serving the greater good of their communities will do well.  
  1. Acknowledge the Duality of the Millennial Mindset.  A confluence of factors (two recessions, 9/11, the Pandemic, lack of job opportunities, etc.) has kept a substantive number of millennials from feeling successful personally and professionally, with a strong correlation between optimism and employment status. However, 57% of millennials indicated that they feel moderate to very optimistic about the future, which leaves 43% feeling less positive and more cynical. Advertisers that acknowledge the duality of the millennial mindset and offer a glimmer of hope will likely see good engagement across all of our millennial personas.  
  1. Advertise on the News. News remains a popular medium for millennials, with almost half consuming news at least weekly and via TV – especially among men and people with higher than average household income.  While we know millennials are digital natives, most believe in the power of broadcast TV and local news. 

Creating an Effective Advertising Campaign for Millennials

Our findings about millennials’ affinity for news and their active interest in their local communities is welcome news for us at TEGNA, as local news is at the core of what we do. Still, we’re also cognizant of the fact that millennials, like many other cohorts, are increasingly accessing the news and all content through disparate devices, which can make them a bit elusive.​ 

That’s why we created TEGNA AudienceOne – one of only the first-party audience-targeting solutions in the local media landscape today. TEGNA AudienceOne is a way to reach TEGNA’s audience by using audiences gathered from the source: TEGNA Websites and Apps. ​ 

Privacy-safe and third-party-cookie-less by design, TEGNA AudienceOne allows brands to not only target TEGNA’s digital audience based on the contextual and buying behavior and household demographics – but it also allows them to reach those same users on our Audience Marketplace, expanding their reach as users continue through their daily digital journey, and in a way that scales.  

Is your Brand Ready to Engage with this High-Value Audience??   

TEGNA AudienceOne, one of only the first-party audience targeting solutions in the local media landscape today, reaches more than 55% of millennials and can help your brand make more meaningful connections with millennials from all walks of life. Contact us and learn more. 

There’s a Better Way to Think About the Millennial Mindset​  

Our survey, Mastering the Millennial Mindset of Today: A Post-Pandemic Deep-Dive into Millennial Attitudes and Behaviors, uncovered a plethora of data and insights about millennials, and one of the biggest takeaways is a new way to think about segmenting this audience of 72M people into six distinct archetypes, or psychographic profiles: Confident Parents, Overachievers, In-Store Moms, Free Spirits, Glass Half Empty, and the All About Me Millennial. Download the free white paper to take a deep dive into the mindset of these six millennial groups.


Millennial Study CTA

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to market to millennials?

It’s important for brands to remember that millennials are not a monolith. Before creating ads, it’s important to determine what kind of millennial you are trying to market to. Brands can create better campaigns by targeting millennials based on life stage and experience, while personalizing their content. Additionally, brands should consider an omnichannel approach with TV and digital advertisements that work to create a cohesive message. 

Why is it hard to market to millennials? 

Millennials came of age during the Great Recession of 2008 and 9/11. Combined with the effect of rising university and cost of living costs, millennials hold less wealth when compared to other generations, despite earning more. Additionally, the strength of a brand is no longer enough to drive sales with this demographic.

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