One Size Does Not Fit All When Marketing To Millennials


Last week I checked out the Ypulse Mashup Conference (full disclosure: I founded Ypulse in 2004 and then sold the business in 2009) to listen to the latest research on Millennials. Rather than going with the popular media narratives that tend to lump this generation into one set of traits, Ypulse shared its own research-based sub-segments that marketers should keep in mind when trying to reach young adults. The segment descriptions are derived from Ypulse — the social marketing takeaways are my own.

The Muted Millennials (represents 28 percent of Millennials)

Aubrey Plaza

April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) from Parks and Recreation

The largest and youngest group of Millennials has been the hardest hit by the recession and can’t recall what life was like before economic tough times. They are cautious, closed off and reserved when it comes to expressing their point of view, preferring to stay under the radar. Contrary to the “all Millennials are obsessed with fame and fortune” stereotype, this group is attention shy, with only nine percent believing that becoming famous is important. They play by the rules and are risk averse. Working hard is important to them, but they haven’t found their dream job — instead most are working in “just a job.” They value a closed/close group of friends and care about family, but are less gung-ho about making the world a better place than other segments (only 66 percent want to do so).

Takeaway for social marketers (my take): This may be the most challenging group to engage. Personal economic benefits i.e. efforts around job creation, reducing student loan debt, etc. might inspire Muted Millennials to want to get involved. So could simple methods like signing a petition or sending a letter versus committing time, resources or creating user generated content.

The Moralist Middles (represents 23 percent of Millennials)

Carie Underwood

Carrie Underwood

The second largest group of Millennials skew female (58 percent), embrace traditional values, are more religious (53 percent go to church), and have a high respect for the law. They tend to live in the middle of the country (and enjoy country music) and want to live close to home. They also have the highest levels of college debt, which they are struggling to pay back. They crave long term stability and want to get married. Many are parents already, but they are not interested in owning a lot of stuff (because they have too much debt).

Takeaway for social marketers: Moralistic Middles would be a good target for non-controversial campaigns, such as public health campaigns focused on parents of young children and family oriented issues. The Middles would also be good to reach for locally based community initiatives.

The Supremes

quinn and finn

Quinn and Finn (Dianna Agron and Cory Monteith) from Glee

Next up are the Supremes — young (58 percent under 21), privileged and high achieving. This group cares a lot about what others think and staying on top of the latest trends. They are counting on formal education to help them succeed and are very much about academic achievement. They love pop music, new tech and are very brand-centric. They also like to be in relationships.

Takeaway for social marketers: This group will be very receptive to campaigns that are heavily branded and tied to popular culture (celebrities, musicians, etc.) — the cooler the swag the better.

Alt Idealists (represents 18 percent of Millennials)

Tavi Gevinson

Tavi Gevinson, editor of Rookie

Confession: This is my favorite group — probably because I was one (the Gen X version). The Alt Idealists are the most cause-oriented segment. They are also “terminally unique,” bucking traditional milestones like marriage and kids while forging their own path. They are urban, the least close to their families, live with roommates and prefer to make versus buy. They see themselves as creative with their own style and don’t care about being rich or famous — they just want to be independent.

Takeaway for social marketers: These are the creative kids posting on Instagram and Tumblr. They are a perfect target for user generated content contests or to design your new logo, poster or even create your PSA. They are also the organizers who will engage on a much higher level in causes they are passionate about. They will spread the word through their social networks as well as volunteer to be boots on the ground.

Beta Dogs (represents 11 percent of Millennials)

Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte

This group skews male and Hispanic (44 percent). They are all about making and spending money (they WANT to be rich and famous) though don’t want to work too hard. They like to party (40 percent of those 25 – 31 binge drink) and care about looking good. They are also more likely to be married and skew a bit older. They are the most open to advertising.

Takeaway for social marketers: Hmm. Maybe target this group with an anti-binge drinking campaign? Given that they are open to advertising and spending, they might be likely to donate to issues they feel passionately about.

Anastasia Goodstein

About Anastasia Goodstein

Anastasia serves as Senior Vice President of the Advertising Council’s Digital group where she manages the team in charge of digital and social strategy for all Ad Council campaigns as well as Prior to joining the Ad Council, she lead the product development and marketing for the Inspire USA Foundation’s primary service,, a digital space for teens struggling with depression or other mental health issues. She has worked in media for the past 15+ years and helped launch youth oriented web and television properties for brands like Oxygen, AOL and Current TV before founding the influential youth marketing site Anastasia was one of the first graduates of the Medill School of Journalism's new media program at Northwestern University, where she earned an MSJ in 1999. Her first book about teens and technology called Totally Wired: What Teens & Tweens Are Really Doing Online was published by St. Martin's Press. She lives in the Greater New York City area with her husband and daughter. Find her on Google+ Twitter

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