Psychology of Successfully Marketing to Millennials

The USA is home to 87.5 million Millennials (ages 18 to 29). In comparison, 83.7 million Americans fall under the "generation X" category (30 to 49-year-olds), whereas the number of baby boomers (aged 50 years and older) is 66.4 million. In the infographic below, the University of Southern California’s Online Master of Science in Applied Psychology degree took a closer look at the psychology marketers must leverage in order to successfully market to this growing demographic in America.

The Psychology of Successfully Marketing to Millennials Infographic

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<p style="clear:both;margin-bottom:20px;"><a href="" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="The Psychology of Successfully Marketing to Millennials Infographic" style="max-width:100%;" /></a></p><p style="clear:both;margin-bottom:20px;"><a href="" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank">University of Southern California </a></p>

Millennial Profile

The American millennial demographic can be divided into five distinct categories based on how it interacts with Internet technology. First, 23% of the millennial population is less engaged online compared to other Millennials earning the tag "digital window shoppers." Out of these, men are the majority (58%) and women the minority (42%). Up to 26% of the millennial population can be categorized as "digital socialites" because they are highly engaged online. Unlike in the prior category, women dominate accounting for 55% of digital socialites meaning males make up the remaining 45% difference. At the same time, 23% of Millennials are extremely tech savvy and heavily consume streaming content and online video content. Sixty four percent of these web media junkies are male while 36% are female. At least 17% of the least digitally engaged Millennials are likely to be unemployed with men and women accounting for 53% and 47% of the unemployed respectively. Finally, 15% of Millennials are highly engaged. Out of these, 57% are male and 43% are female.

How Different Generations View and Consume Media Content

1. Device ownership

85% of American Millennials own a smartphone, 78% own a PC or a laptop and 50% own a tablet. In comparison, 79% of Generation X own a smartphone, 81% own a PC or laptop, and 57% own a tablet. Finally, 54% of senior Americans own a smartphone, 70% own a PC or laptop and 37% own a tablet.

2. Media consumption

Due to their tech savvy nature, Millennials constitute the smallest group of newspaper and magazine readers. In fact, they account for only 31%, 35%, and 33% of readers who consume magazine content via tablets, PCs/laptops, and smartphones respectively. They also account for 20%, 32%, and 48% of US web users who consume newspaper content via tablets, PCs/laptops, and smartphones respectively. On the other hand, Millennials are only second to the Gen X in terms of number of people who use the Internet. In the US, 35% of Millennials, 38% of Gen X, and 28% of baby boomers are Internet users. In addition, Millennials spend the least amount of time watching TV (2.4 hours) compared to Gen X (2.61 hours) and baby boomers (3.78 hours). Millennials also account for the smallest percentage of radio listeners (31%) when compared to Gen X (35%) and baby boomers (34%).

3. Social media usage

Millennials are heavy social media users. In fact, 89% of American Millennials use social networking sites regularly. In comparison, 82% of Gen X and 49% of senior Americans use social media regularly. With that in mind, 82% of Millennials use social media to interact with brands or retailers, 49% follow their favorite brands or retailers via social media and 38% use social media to discover brands. For the other generations collectively, 65% use social media to interact with brands or retailers whereas 31% use social media to follow their favorite brands and retailers. Only 26% use social media to discover brands.

Spending preferences

Millennials tend to spend their money education, clothing, food, services, socializing, transport, purchasing food away from home, and groceries. Gen X consumers spend most of their income on entertainment, pension, and personal insurance. On their part, baby boomers spend their money on personal care products, healthcare, reading, miscellaneous spending, and services.

Shopping preferences

Up to 53% of Millennials make purchases online. In comparison, only 28% of Gen X and 10% of baby boomers use the Internet to purchase goods and services. While shopping online, 31% of Millennials are likely to use either a PC or a smartphone. In comparison, 23% and 15% of consumers use PCs and smartphones to shop online. Generation X consumers are more likely to use a tablet (18%) while shopping online. On the other hand, 28% of Millennials and 24% of baby boomers use a tablet to shop online. Due to their limited tech knowledge, baby boomers are more likely to use a PC (18%) than a smartphone to shop online. Thirty-one percent of Millennials and 13% of Gen X consumers are likely to use the same devices for online shopping purposes.

Ways Brands Market to Millennials

Warby Parker has capitalized on the money spending habits and preference for social and environmental responsibility to market their products to Millennials. In the US, 77% of Millennials believe the economy plays a role in the way they save and spend money. Furthermore, 87% of Millennials have shown the desire to make purchases that have an environmental or social benefit. The shoe retailer Toms has used marketing strategies that capitalize on the propensity of Millennials to use social media to reach millennial consumers. Presently, 77% of Millennials use social media to engage with brands on CSR issues compared to the US average of 53%. Take note 91% of Millennials prefer brands associated with a good cause compared to the US average of 85%. The ride sharing company Uber has capitalized on the ambivalence of Millennials towards car ownership to grow its business. Only 15% of Millennials believe it is necessary to own a car, whereas a further 25% say it is important but not a priority.

Secrets to Effective Millennial Marketing

While mobile devices are the best channels for reaching Millennials, you should have a multi-platform marketing strategy since many Millennials own multiple devices. For instance, 55% watch video content on multiple devices. Customization should also be part of your marketing strategy because 85% of Millennials are likely to purchase personalized goods/services. Another factor to consider is authenticity since Millennials tend to dislike deceptive advertising. Publishing informational blogs can also help you reach Millennials given one in three Millennials use blogs for research purposes before making purchases.


American Millennials are a key consumer demographic for online marketers, thanks to their tech savviness and ability to consume web-based content. In addition, they are more likely to spend money purchasing goods and services compared to Gen X and baby boomers. Finally, they are more likely to use smartphones and tablets to make online purchases.