What do millennials really want?

Not another article about the millennial generation!

We’re obsessed, literally obsessed. But we promise this one's different. It's all about getting millennials to engage with your brand...

If you were born between 1980 and 2000, you’ll already know how it feels to be the most scrutinised generation yet. Everyone is trying to work out your behaviour, what you’re thinking and how you feel about buying stuff. Or not buying stuff, as the case may be.

Historically, marketers have always pursued young consumers like bees after honey. Catch ‘em young and they’ll never leave! If only it were that easy... 

Brand loyalty is, of course, harder to come by these days. Today’s consumer knows there’s value in switching services like utilities and car insurers to gain better deals. With greater access to best deal information on sites like The Money Saving Expert, consumers have more knowledge at their fingertips and they aren’t afraid to use it.

So why are so many marketing departments falling over themselves to attract the millennial consumer? And how can you get them to successfully engage with your brand?

Not the avocado generation

Australian real estate mogul, Tim Gurner, famously said that millennials stood to never own their own homes if they didn’t stop eating at expensive cafés all day long. Start knocking everyday luxuries on the head and stop moaning, was the spin. How can a generation allegedly afford to be liberal with their pounds yet not understand that life’s big purchases take years to save for? They take sacrifices.

We think Tim rather missed the point here.

Not only have millennials been royally saddled by student debt and spiralling costs, but many actually entered the workplace for the first time in the midst of a deep and dire global recession. There’s not many of us who don’t wince at the thought of 2008’s redundancies, played out up and down the land in equally depressing measure.

As digital natives, millennials are used to not owning things outright. They expect it! They’ve always downloaded books and music, shared photographs not physical albums, and now they’re even leasing cars rather than buying them. Less dusting at home leads to less emphasis on having. They shop online and get what’s needed without the need to come into contact with actual stuff.

So far, so not great for brand marketers.  

Millennials are getting their avocado fix while they can, and we say good luck to them. Whether that translates as a target audience who can make a difference to your brand’s bottom line, rather depends on what you have to offer.

Not as pessimistic as all that

It’s not all doom and gloom for marketers targeting this golden millennial goose however.

Sodexo's 'Consumer Promotions: What Shoppers Think in 2017' survey reveals that 45-54 year olds were the most pessimistic about their personal wealth in 2017, with 31% expecting to be worse off this year. Now if you were expecting this to be about millennials instead, you could be forgiven.

In fact, our report contains another PwC statistic, telling us that 31% of 25-34 year olds believed that their disposable income would actually increase in 2017. Whether they’ve been spending more of this on avocados or not, well, funnily enough it’s a very real possibility. Fresh food has gained a younger appeal for shoppers.

When asked in which supermarket category people would be most likely to participate in sales promotions and competitions, fresh food proved most popular among the over 55s last year (26.28%). Yet this year has seen a significant shift, with fresh food promotions having the greatest appeal (27.78%) for, guess who?

Yes, millennials! 

Tapping into the wellness trend

Millennials might not be physically going into clothes or book stores, but there are opportunities for brands who choose to tie in with their desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle at all costs. The rise in the wellness trend offers massive opportunities for marketers who know where to look.


We’ve seen start-ups like Graze, the convenient health food box that’s delivered to your door, ride high on this trend for healthy eating and the millennial desire for convenience. With Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods and their giant leap into food delivery service, it’s one more reason why in-store promotions need to try even harder to get noticed.

Then there are the likes of Vita Mojo, an app-led restaurant that lets diners choose the ingredients of their dish based on personal preference. Just add smartphone. If you can personalise, it, for millennials, so much the better.

Fresh food has officially gone digital. 

We’ve already seen how millennial behaviour has been key to the success of challenger brands like Deliveroo, Uber and AirB&B. They’re willing to try new things, enjoy different experiences and take risks on a brand name they haven’t heard of before. It’s all part of the pursuit of experience – driven by a love of social media and a commitment to their over-worked smartphones.

Fresh food and on-pack promotions

Yet all is not lost for in-store promotions. The difference is, that when building an in-store promotion, an element of digital is a prerequisite. For brand competitions and promotions, the on-pack element still carries marketing kudos. However, our report amplifies the need for brands to make on-pack promotions more relevant.

The Sodexo report found that 32.8% of people said they are more likely to buy a particular product if it has an offer or promotion printed on the packaging. This dropped slightly from 36.5% of respondents in 2016.

It’s clear to us that brand engagement in-store relies on highly targeted promotions that link closely with the target audience’s demographic. So that means hunting down relevant and meaningful opportunities for your millennial market. What’s more, promotions must be quick and easy to enter (and understand), and increasingly this means driving people online to a dedicated digital presence. And that’s not all.

Throw in a chance for millennial customers to get up close to your product or service by hosting a multi-sensory brand experience and you’ve just turned up marketing gold.

FOmo is a thing

It’s the fear of missing out, fuelled by the millennial love for sharing and creating content on social media, immediately and worldwide, that drives this desire to make new connections and seek out different experiences. Brand marketers have wised up to this with AdWeek reporting that brands are doing more and more experiential marketing.

Enter stage left then, this helpful little nugget from the Sodexo report: we’ve learned that millennials would love a dream holiday. When it comes to major competition prizes, 17.25% of the millennial segment said a spectacular overseas trip would be their preferred prize of choice, supporting the well-documented belief that experience is everything.

More specifically, when asked what type of travel prize they would leap all over, the 25-34-year-old age group is no longer most attracted by a luxury city break in Europe (21.41% in 2016). Millennials have their sights on an exotic all expenses paid beach holiday (21.05% in 2017).

This is supported by the fact that the ‘dream holiday or luxury trip’ is most attractive to those earning £25-30k (14.61%) this year – likely to include a large chunk of millennials – a departure from last year when it held the most appeal for those earning £70-80k (21.43%). Overall, if you can get a super enticing holiday, you can feed their millennial imagination and their social network timelines, offering true escapism.

Plus, there’s a big chance your brand competition will go viral.

millennials want  a total brand experience

Brands need to go to the people. And a strong social media strategy mixed with a multi-touchpoint promotional campaign is the best way to do it. If you can personalise it, filter it or build in a live experience, so much the better. Facebook is still the dominant social network for millennials worldwide, especially around video views.

However, millennials are driving growth and brand engagement across Instagram and Snapchat.

In 2017, Facebook was the most popular social media network for sharing news of competitions and promotions among 35-44 year olds (31.03%), but last year it was 25-34 year olds who most commonly flocked to Facebook to share. If a brand can conquer this online territory, they’ll be viewed as more authentic as they create transparent and engaging experiences. 

Millennials have high expectations of brand behaviour. Seems only fair, given how obsessed us marketers are with them. Problem is, they can create content faster and better than most brands out there. Whatever content you commit to then, needs to deliver on quality, entertainment or personality.

Otherwise your audience will drop you faster than Donald Trump can book a golfing holiday.

The bottom line is, Millennials want to connect with your brand. But you need to make it worthwhile. Do that, and you have a strong chance to build brand loyalty and create some noise.

Sound like a challenge? The main thing is to make it one to remember.

How do you make sure you're fully prepped for that challenge? Why look no more than our ultimate consumer insights report on what the savviest generation of UK consumers are after (that's a lot of millennials...).