Sherri Elliott-Yeary - Why traditional marketing tactics don’t work on millennials Featured

7:10pm EDT August 26, 2013
Sherri Elliott-Yeary Sherri Elliott-Yeary

Millennials (a person born in the 1980s or 1990s) are a different animal to reach market-wise. They represent the largest demographic in the United States, according to USA Today, so knowing how to communicate with them is of prime importance.

I want to break down how you can shift some of your more traditional methods of marketing to appeal to the millennial generation.

Direct mail

When it comes to your direct mail strategy and millennials, it’s not working. 

To help illustrate the decline in engagement with physical media, one only needs to look at music sales. In 2013, CD sales dropped 13 percent, while digital formats increased 9.1 percent. Millennials don’t necessarily value the touch and feel of a product, but rather the ease of acquisition and use of a product.

The same goes for mail. Most pay their bills electronically, rendering the mailbox a place often reserved for an ever-growing pile of recycling. 

How to adjust: If you’re used to direct mail, I think you’ll find the easiest transition into more millennial-friendly turf is email marketing. It’ll help promote new products or services in a similar way to direct mail. And, most importantly, it’s measurable. Direct mail is often feast or famine.

Print and TV advertising

Millennials all but created second screen viewership, using online streaming in order to access their favorite shows anywhere. The same applies to reading their favorite magazines. It’s more convenient to stream your favorite show or read a magazine on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

While live TV still dominates, millennials are watching five hours and 39 minutes of video online every week, a number that continues to rise. 

How to adjust: While TV advertising can still be effective as a whole — although more so if you have a big budget — relying on mass media as a sole method of promotion moving forward will prove to be ineffective. Millennials prefer to view video on-demand. Whatever the device, they’ve found ways around advertisements.

As millennials redirect their attention to a second screen, so should you. Tons of video exists online that your audience is viewing. Look into methods of advertisement that are more direct and impactful by creating your own online videos and increasing your presence on YouTube. 

Cold calling

Cold calling is exactly the kind of solicited marketing initiative that simply won’t resonate with the millennial market. Millennials expect a more personalized, engaging experience in order to solve their problems.

How to adjust: Stop prospecting over the phone. Younger buyers don’t respond to this. Instead, let your content do the prospecting and educating for you. That’s ultimately what they’re looking for — a resource to assist in their decision-making process.

Using Facebook’s model as an example, you could target your ads to a specific demographic based on age, gender or location and establish a complementary organic presence with potential to be even more effective.

Tone it down

There’s an obvious underlying theme here of a generation extremely adept at blocking out unwanted marketing messages, and more importantly, seeking out brands that provide the substance and engagement they’re looking for.

Millennials come equipped with fairly accurate “BS radar,” if you will, meaning it’s critical that you adjust your tone in order to engage them more effectively — no matter what marketing channel you’re using.

Consider adding someone to your team with strong written, oral and communication skills that can more accurately convey the message to your audience in a manner that speaks to and with millennials, rather than for and at them. Work hard to include them in the conversation. If not, the conversation will be happening somewhere else — without you.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is known as the “Generational Guru” and is CEO of human resource consulting company Optimance Workforce Strategies as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage” and “You Can Have It All, Just Not All At Once!” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted trainer, speaker and coach to companies ranging from small start-ups to large international corporations. Contact her at