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When Marketing to Millennials, the Key Is Choice

From Friday, May 17th, 2013 MediaPost: Engage: GenY – When Marketing to Millennials, the Key Is Choice

Millennials have quickly become the most coveted target demographic for brands. The reasons for this are clear. This group (generally considered to be consumers between the ages of 18 and 32) is the wave of the future. According to, they account for about 79 million people in the United States and will make up 50% of the U.S. workforce by 2030.

However, while Millennials seem to be in abundance, some brands have found it difficult to capture their attention due to their unpredictable media consumption habits. At any given point, Millennials can be exposed to a commercial ad on television, a pop-up on their smartphone, or a PSA from online radio; the list seems infinite. With options galore, brands have to place more emphasis on the behavior of Millennials, and one of the most valued characteristics that they search for in a brand is variety.

Surprisingly, some iconic brands have struggled in the Millennial space because they failed to adopt this concept. McDonald’s, one of the most successful worldwide brands, is not even considered a “top 10” quick-service restaurant by the majority of Millennials. While this startling fact may be partially due to this generation’s tendency to eat healthier, McDonald’s didn’t discount the fact that it could have been the lack of choice their menu offered. This led to the release of the McWrap, which, with different preparation options, gives customers more customized experience.

Yet, as McDonald’s plays catch-up, other brands have been more diligent about appealing to Millennials.

Listing Menu “Suggestions”

Subway and Chipotle have made a name for themselves not only with quality food, but also the massive array of topping options they offers. While exact menu items are listed, they are better to think of as menu “suggestions” rather than actual products; playing right into the preferences of the current generation. In addition, the brands have the rare ability to appeal to both health-conscious consumers and those who are just looking for a quick meal, regardless of nutrition. Both are examples of how crafting a message around choice, no matter the medium, can prove beneficial when trying to appeal to Millennials.

The Convenience Factor: Online Reviews and Ordering

The adoption of digital and mobile is now critical when appealing to Millennials, as the group has access to a smartphone or computer at almost all times. Websites like Seamless and Yelp are perfect for grabbing their attention for two reasons: they literally lay out thousands of restaurant choices and, in Seamless’s case, provide the option of ordering online through a computer or smartphone. The service currently boasts over two million members. Larger restaurant brands such as Pizza Hut and Domino’s have also adopted online ordering to appeal to a broader audience through convenience. As mobile and digital continue to grow, providing a choice between calling, online ordering, and … gasp … actually showing up at a location becomes a larger factor.

Don’t Be Shy About Adjusting Your Brand, Even If You’ve Been Around a While

The craft beer industry has exploded over the past decade, with Millennials as chief consumers. Once again, this product category offers a wide range of options. From blondes to ales, pilsners to IPAs, consumers of craft beers are now exposed to more than the once-limited “heavy” and “light.” Anheuser-Busch InBev is a brand that was wise enough to pick up on this trend a few summers ago and has since answered with several high-profile product options, including Bud Light Lime, Bud Light Platinum, the Bud Light Lime-A-Rita, and Budweiser Black Crown, which was introduced earlier this year. In addition, the company’s strategy to acquire multiple other craft beers has driven its variety even further. As Millennials continue to associate the term “connoisseur” more with beer than with wine, AB InBev continues to make bold moves in the battle for Millennial attention. This situation can be applied to marketers across many different spectrums.

As Millennials continue to become primary purchasers in the marketplace, brands will have to keep up with the various ways in which they interact with messages – both through media and when making a purchasing decision. While many companies will go back and forth trying to figure out ideal options, the simple answer revolves around the power of choice.


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