What a treat. Yesterday afternoon, the entire Curalate Team—from Philly to Seattle to New York—gathered via Google Hangout to participate in a masterfully executed Lunch ‘n’ Learn with our very own Content Strategist, Stephanie – the resident expert in audience demographics.

marketing to millennials

Among her favorite demographics is also one of the most important for brands to pay attention to today: millennials. After a passionate presentation and an energetic Q&A, I wanted to share some of the biggest takeaways from the session, including who these buyers are and why you as a marketer need to care.

So, what’s the deal with Generation Y?

millennial character types

Millennials (aka Generation Y and Echo Boomers) are defined as those who fall between the ages of 18 and 34. To understand their characteristics more deeply, Stephanie walked us through 12 subsets of millennial consumers, as determined by digital ad and analytics firm Exponential Interactive. To complete their study, Exponential Interactive surveyed data pertaining to 4 million young adults. I’ve provided a quick snapshot of these segments below, and you can find more in-depth profiles (along with celeb proxies) in this article from Adweek.

1. The Boss Babe: Your typical female go-getter. She’s assertive. She’s focused. She definitely leans in. And her purchase power is on fire. To me, Sophia Amoruso is the first Boss Babe that comes to mind, though Adweek likens this character to Scandal’s leading lady, Olivia Pope.

2. The Brogrammer: “Hard-partying male tech pros.” Yep, that just about sums this one up. He’s career-oriented, loves sports, and has spent years honing his killer flip cup technique.

3. The Underemployed: The overeducated grad who floats from job to job without the faintest idea of how to get promoted or secure better pay. “Home” is a shoebox in an up-and-coming urban area – but have you seen how gentrified it’s become? The tragically self-unaware Hannah Horvath, of HBO’s Girls, seems to suit this character swimmingly.

4. The Shutout: Unemployed, in debt, and dependent on mom and dad’s dime. Typically male, this millennial subset lives at home – and likes it. Now, if they could only figure out what to do with that degree in sociology. (It seemed like a good idea at the time, anyway.)

5. The Nostalgic: The quintessential blue-collar hipster who relishes in what was. If you’re still struggling to picture this character, just turn on an episode of Portlandia. I recommend the “Is It Local?” skit, personally.

6. The World Traveler: Adventurous yet frugal, this travel enthusiast is willing to wander the world with little more than a backpack and a dream. And Google Maps. They’d never leave home without Google Maps.

7. The Culinary Explorer: This hometown foodie is on a mission to find the best artisanal meal in town. Kale infused kale? Count them in. One thing to note is that, while they revel in both local and exotic cuisine, they value authentic experiences above all. To them, food isn’t just food; it’s an experience.

8. The Exuberant: Social savvy content creators, this group of millennials is constantly seeking to show off just how awesome they are. Adweek’s portrayal of Tom Haverford (the overzealous Parks and Recreation character played by Aziz Ansari) is spot on.

9. The Collector: While these “digital listeners” soak up social content like a sponge, they are unlikely to go out of their way to create conversations of their own. They are typically introverts who live vicariously through others’ experiences.

10. The Quarter-Life Crisis Millennial: Simply put, this group is paralyzed by the thought of who they are and where they’re going. Common fears range from “who do I want to be” to “when will I get married.”

origins markets to millennials quarter life crisis

Estee Lauder’s Origins is tapping into this sect rather overtly with its current #QuarterLifeCrisis campaign, a digital execution—developed by the company’s own millennial employees—that aims to help this demographic address the early signs of skin aging. I actually discovered this campaign while thumbing through my daily Digiday email blast earlier today, but I think we can agree that it’s certainly timely. Says Origins’ VP of Global Consumer Engagement, “…We’re playing in all the places we need to be – entering conversations that are already authentic.”

The brand’s VP of Global Communications and Strategic Alliances, Trenesa Danuser, adds that the goal of the campaign is to move beyond their products to address a real issue faced by women today – whether related to work or life. Indeed, this campaign could have been even stronger if it lived on Instagram or had a more visual component (more on why below).

11. Millennial Martha: So. Freaking. Perfect. Millennial Marthas are the Martha Stewarts of today: content creators whose creativity has landed them among social’s elite. Their influence can be found on channels like YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram in the form of tutorials and DIY.

12. The Millennial Mom: Socially active moms with a focus on healthy living. “Having it all” is a concern they can’t seem to shake, but not to the point that they would sacrifice their own or their family’s well-being. Their purchase power is like none other.

But wait, there’s more!

After giving us a thorough overview of the 12 most common themes, Stephanie pointed out one more character type that she felt is missing from the bunch: The Activist. This person is fueled by social issues and a larger cause. To find other like-minded people to engage with, activists tends to gravitate toward Tumblr.

What do these individuals have in common?

There’s no question that the personas outlined above are diverse. You might even be asking what, if anything, they have in common. To bridge this gap, Stephanie detailed some of the similarities that are consistent across each buyer type.

  • Their digital habits: 85% of millennials own smartphones, and they check them an average of 43 times per day.
  • Their purchase drivers: Millennials value “experiences” over “things,” a sentiment that’s likely driven by a fear of missing out (i.e. FOMO). This is perpetuated by social platforms like Instagram.
  • Their love of Instagram: In fact, if they could use just one app for the rest of their lives, Instagram is it. Moreover, it’s the No. 1 platform that inspires them to make a purchase.
  • How they communicate: As evidenced by the last point, millennials—and today’s consumer in general—engage with each other and with brands using pictures, not words. This has resulted in a far more globally connected consumer, as language is less of a barrier than ever.
  • They keep it real: Millennial consumers are more receptive to authentic imagery, which also speaks to their attraction to Instagram as a social channel of choice.

Why should you care?

millennials and baby boomersThis, of course, is a great question – and one that’s on a lot of marketers’ minds these days. If you’re driven by numbers, consider these. The millennial generation is growing rapidly. By the end of 2015, millennials will supersede Baby Boomers as the largest living generation. Millennials will also outspend Boomers by 2017.

The problem? Up until now, we’ve yet to see brands show that they are listening to these buyers. If we can take anything away from our Lunch ‘n’ Learn, it’s that brands need to consider the purchasing power of this influential demographic. Those that don’t will risk becoming irrelevant to an entire generation.