How to Market to Millennials: Sometimes, Everyone Needs a Trophy

How to Market to Millennials: Sometimes, Everyone Needs a Trophy

Casual Diversity Social Media Communication ConceptIn the marketing world, we have all at least heard some discussion in the past few years about the importance of the Millennial Generation, you know, these guys:

Wait…These Guys!!! Ok, maybe not those guys as much, but yes, even them.

Full disclosure, for the image to the right, I looked for the most diverse, most Millennial picture I could find. What are they even drinking? It looks like some left over experiment from Chemistry 101. Is that what they are all searching on their array of different devices? I hope at least one of them has WebMD up. Don’t drink the weird blue/green liquid!

While easy to poke fun at, Millennials are becoming increasingly important in today’s world. As this infographic from Goldman Sachs illustrates, among some other interesting facts, “the Millennial Generation is the biggest in US history—even bigger than the Baby Boomers.” Or, maybe it’s not.

There has been some debate over exactly how large the generation is because no one can seem to put an exact date on when the Millennial Generation began. Wikipedia is kind of vague, stating it runs from the early 1980’s to around 2000. Thanks for the spot on analysis Wikipedia. Some just tell you to go with what you feel, like this article which states “if you born a little earlier than 1982 and you consider yourself to be more Millennial than Generation X, that is your opinion. Or if you were born in, or just after 1982 and you feel that you are more Gen X than a Millennial, the same [sentiment] applies. It is really up to the individuals born during the cusp years (late 1970’s to early-mid 1980’s) to decide which generation they feel a stronger connection to.” Um…I don’t think that’s how this works.

Even more conventional publications like the NY Times and Slate got into an argument after the Times ran a column giving employers tips on how to deal with Millennials quoting individuals as old as 37. Prompted by that argument, detailed here, The Atlantic decided to do some thorough analysis and determined that the Millennial Generation spans from 1982-2004. I like that one because I was born in 1981 and generally identify as Generation X. (Ok, maybe that is how it works).

I’ve always taken a less scientific approach to determining a Millennial from a Gen Xer. I use one simple question. When you were little, and you went off somewhere by yourself or with friends, did your parents make sure you had either a dime or quarter (depending on how old you are or where you grew up) so that you could use a payphone to call for a ride home when you were done?

If the answer is yes, you are part of Generation X. If not, you are a Millennial. See, that was easy.

But does any of this really matter? Of course, the answer is no. While kind of interesting, arriving on a proper definition of Millennials does not make them any less important as a marketing entity for businesses. And, if you aren’t currently marketing to Millennials1, you seriously need to re-adjust your business strategy.

So how do you effectively market to Millennials? Here is one sound strategy that will help your business grow and succeed in this budding market.

Sometimes Everyone Needs a Trophy

The Millennial Generation is often times criticized for being the generation that always got a trophy for participation, even if they didn’t win, which in turn has led many to believe they are ‘weaker’ than previous generations. Don’t take my word for it; it’s a very hot topic recently. But, don’t look at this as a negative, look at it as an opportunity.

As Kevin Warhus writes, “since the dawn of Foursquare and a variety of other social check-ins, rewards and badges have become all the rage… Companies big and small have long ago realized that it is a great way to connect with customers and reward them for the use of their service… people naturally enjoy being praised for their actions and collecting proof of their invested time and energy to show off to their friends.”


Think of all of the different apps and services you use that offer some sort of ‘meaningless’ reward. Have you played angry birds or candy crush lately, or for that matter any app based game? They are littered with gold stars and trophies.

How about loyalty cards? Point systems for discounts and any number of various retailers, airlines or hotel chains? There are countless articles about various ways to game the system using various loyalty and reward offers to reduce your overall financial burden.

Still not convinced? Go to any CVS in America and stand next to a register for 10-15 mins. Inevitably someone will come in and start talking about how they want to use their points, or they want to get more points, or they didn’t get enough points etc. Believe me, this person is in line in front of me every single time.

Yahoo Fantasy Profile

This is entirely true in my life as well. I enjoy fantasy sports, and one thing the Yahoo platform does is give virtual medals and trophies for achievements. Some of the leagues I have competed in have been for no money, and believe me, I want that stupid little virtual trophy. Oh God, I wish it weren’t true, but alas, it is.

Now, I fully acknowledge that many of these systems, which more often than not, are designed to capture behavioral information so companies can more effectively target customers, are not liked by certain consumers. However, most that fall into these groups are from the Baby Boom generation or earlier. Millennials have already acquiesced to the point that their entire life is cataloged online, and because of that, are more apt to let companies track their behavior. Let’s face it. They are going to do it whether we give them our email address or not, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you are not an online retailer, or don’t want to do a significant amount of data collection and analysis, you can still offer your customers some sort of ‘reward’. Send a thank you note expressing your gratitude for their business, promote them on your website as one of your top customers (with their permission of course), repost some of their social media posts, or even send them a holiday fruit basket. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you do something. Create a reward strategy that fits your business, corporate personality and budget, because that is what Millennials are expecting, and they are too big to ignore. Believe me, even these guys will appreciate it. Yes, even those guys!

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1. I showed this article to a friend who questioned this statement. They asked “what about a product like adult diapers, you wouldn’t market those to Millennials would you?” “Depends”, I responded because I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make one of the oldest and corniest jokes out there, but the real answer is that the Millennial generation is living at home with their parents longer than any generation before them, and someday their parents may (and likely will) return the favor. At that point, they might be in the market for a product such as adult diapers, or any other product that will be used by “older” generations and creating the brand awareness now is part of sound business strategy for the makers of Depends, and similar products.