When it comes to discussing my generation, I don’t normally hear much praise for millennials. Other generations view us as lazy, entitled and expecting overwhelming amounts of praise. And in some aspects I understand that we as a generation aren’t the best. We literally don’t understand the definition of the word “literally.” One of our biggest problems in life is figuring out how to condense our highly-regarded thoughts down to 140 characters. And, our biggest cultural contribution is probably the selfie.

Still – like it or not – we are a massive generation set in our ways. And if brands want to tap into our powerful consumer habits, they will need to speak to our values, understand our experiences and inform us with choices.

It’s no secret that the economy hasn’t provided the opportunities to achieve our post-graduation goals. It’s not an excuse; it’s a fact. Everything that was once an easily attainable aspiration for Americans has suddenly been placed slightly out of reach. As a result, we often are trying to fill our lives with experiences our parents and grandparents never had.

Bang for Our Buck

The estimated purchasing power of millennials is $1.68 trillion, which makes sense considering we are currently the largest generation in the US. Understanding how to market to us is absolutely crucial for brands looking to catch our attention. Sure, some brands might be inclined to wait out our adolescent attitudes until we mature into more classic consumers, but those brands will miss out on an opportunity that others will likely pounce on. Adaptation is crucial now more than ever, and millennials are proving just how true that is.

Millennials have grown up in a world saturated with choice. We get our news from hundreds – if not thousands of different sources. We have hundreds of different shops to choose from. If we don’t like the choices presented to us, we can choose to create a new path via our own means to accomplish what we want. This is something that brands tend to overlook. Even though the economy has struggled, we still have tremendous options when it comes spending our hard earned money.

The Truth Behind YOLO

Sure, “YOLO” may be a now tired cliché, but it serves as a reminder of something very important to my generation: we have an intense need for experience – so much so that we have dedicated an entire phrase to that need. We capture these experiences on our mobiles and share these experiences to our followers, which in turn prompts more desire to experience more unique aspects of life.

Millennials are viewed as narcissistic due to this need to share ourselves and every aspect of our life with the world. That might be partly true, but it also makes a very crucial point in understanding our consumer needs. We see life differently. We don’t see the American Dream as something very attainable anymore, and this affects what we choose to spend our money. We recognize that experiences are invaluable (though they come with a price tag), and we choose to invest in brands that provide an experience.

Unfortunately for brands, this circle of sharing and experiencing negates the traditional pattern of consumption that marketers used to expect from past generations. Why save to buy a house when you could jump on a last minute opportunity to travel to Italy? In our millennial mind, the trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The house can wait.


Brands that are able to get past the superficial labels that have been pinned to Millennials and understand the motivation that drives our behavior will have a greater chance at capturing our loyalty and purchasing power. It’s time for brands to get on board. But first, we should take a selfie.


How have you adjusted your marketing strategy to account for Millennials? Leave a comment below, or tweet us at @RHStrategic with the hashtag #RHetoricBlog. 

RH Strategic is the PR firm for a hyper-connected world, delivering integrated media, social & digital strategies for technology, healthcare, and public sector markets.