Millennials: Who Do We Think We Are? (Part 3 – Marketing to Millennials)

MILLENNIALS:  Who Do We Think We Are?

Part 3 in a 5-Part Series:  What Restaurateurs & Business Owners Need to Know About Millennials

Marketing to Millennials


In case you live under a rock, let me be the first to tell you that Millennials are addicted to their phones and technology.  With that in mind, it would be logical to think that the best way to market to Millennials is through electronic devices – and you’d be right.  But, what is the best message to craft so that your marketing dollars actually hit their target?  Continuing our series about Millennials, Part 3 focuses on Marketing to Millennials.


Headline:  Attract Other Millennials!

Whether you sell a product (and especially food) or a service (think entertainment-related), one of the best ways to attract Millennials to your establishment is to market to other Millennials.  A candid comment that was shared with me during my Millennial group interview session was that “we (Millennials) don’t want to go to places filled with 40-year-olds” – or, even worse, “our parents”.

Like attracts like and this is especially true with Millennials.  During my interview I asked the group, “What are the most effective ways to engage Millennials?”  It took less than two seconds before I heard, “Engage other Millennials”!  In other words, focus on letting Millennials know who else is going to be there – i.e., their friends and especially attractive members of the opposite sex!).  While online dating continues to be very popular and new dating apps are springing up for every demographic group, Millennials prefer to meet new friends and prospective mates in a social setting.

Meetup-type events that show how many people (and exactly which people) will be at a specific place – perhaps your restaurant – could be a fun campaign.  If radio advertising is part of your marketing budget, switch things up a bit to attract the Millennial crowd.  Your radio spot will plant the ‘Welcome!’ seed and if Millennials behave like, well, Millennials, their social media activity could be the perfect fertilizer.

Happy Hours, Independent Ownership & ‘Your Purpose’:  Millennial Magnets

  • Millennials are big users of happy hour specials, citing ‘value for your dollar’ as a draw.  Said one Millennial, “I would definitely pay $8 for a bucket (which I now know, because I had to ask, is a sandbox bucket with a lot of shots in it and a shovel) but would not pay the normal price of $11 to $13 if I know I can get them cheaper by going during happy hour”.  Despite the fact that Millennials have disposable income that they often choose to spend on food, beverages and social activities, a ‘deal’ allows them to do more eating, drinking and socializing more often.
  • Is your company independently owned?  Millennials like to support non-franchise business owners and they feel especially endeared to them if the owners are Millennials themselves.  I have a feeling that if you are a Millennial franchise owner and your marketing message is properly crafted, your peers will show up in support of your efforts.  Millennials already eat at franchise concepts – quite a bit, in fact – so if they have an added incentive to help one of their own succeed, they’ll be there!
  • While everyone expects companies to make a profit above and beyond their operating costs, Millennials want to know that you – and thus THEY — are part of a bigger purpose.  Again, pulling comments from Part 2 of this series about the animal shelter that offered free adoptions for dogs over 3 years old, your marketing should highlight a cause or purpose which shows Millennials that your company cares about more than simply making money.  Do you sponsor community events?  Do a portion of your sales get donated to a charity?  Does every member of your team log volunteer hours with various organizations?  Tell your company’s story and, better yet, let your Millennial staff help share your ‘why’!

Epic Fail Marketing Message

In talking with my test group of Millennials, the question was, “What are common mistakes restaurants make when trying to reach Millennials?”  Without hesitation, the response was, “When they (restaurants) reach out on social media or in commercials, they use someone who is too far out of my age bracket to be effective (my Mom vs. the cool guy down the street).”  When I asked for a bit more clarification, they mentioned the “wrong (too old) language”.  Ad copy should be written in Millennial-friendly speak not the Queen’s proper English (okay, I’m ad-libbing there – they didn’t actually mention the Queen’s English but you get the idea).

Like It Or Not, Like Attracts Like

Adding to the question above about mistakes that restaurants often make when trying to reach Millennials, another specific comment was, “Being taken care of by a server who is 25 or 45…who am I going to connect with better?”

So what does that have to do with marketing to Millennials?  Well, like attracts like and Millennials generally like each other.  They bond over tattoos and piercings which is often an ice breaker, they listen to the same music, they typically have the same sense of humor, and they speak the same language (“Millennial”).  Keeping these comments in mind as marketing messages are created will help to position your company well with Millennials.

   Attract Other Millennials (“tell us who else will be there”)

+ Value (happy hour/tappas)

+ Your Company’s Higher Purpose (beyond profits/altruism)

+ Tell Your Story (who owns your business)

= Your Winning Marketing Message

Upcoming articles in this series include:

  • Part 4 – Millennials as Employees
  • Part 5 – Millennials as Business Owners

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *