Buzzwords: Millennial

Throwing a wide net won't help you market to this coveted demographic

Back Article Mar 21, 2016 By MaryJayne Zemer

(mə-’le-nē-əl), n.

The demographic cohort following generation X, starting with those born in the 1980s

The millennial generation’s sheer numbers, unprecedented spending power, and knack for radically influencing progressive trends and cultural shifts has made them a highly sought after target market. While millennials are currently the single largest generation to date, making up an entire quarter of the population, they’re also the most diverse generation this country has ever seen, making them far more difficult to target as a collective whole.


For example, a much smaller percentage of millennials are car owners, compared to baby boomers or generation Xers. Millennials who don’t own vehicles were the driving force behind the success of rideshare services like Uber, which saw $10.84 billion in revenue during 2015. However, millennials are also now the single largest generation of car buyers. Yes, a smaller percentage of millennials will own a car than did baby boomers, but as a generation they will buy more vehicles than their predecessors. Due to both their size and diversity, it’s unlikely that all millennials are your customers.

Because of their proclivity to influence emerging trends, attracting millennials demands a willingness to meet their emerging needs and evolving expectations, rather than just using new and more tools to market old products and ideas.

Take car insurance, as an example. Instead of adding new insurance packages to address the growing rideshare industry that includes Uber and Lyft services, major insurance companies like Geico refused to adapt to the lines millennials were blurring between commercial driving and personal driving. Instead, they’re creating the new Cola Wars and competing with ad budgets rather than relevance. Geico, which has been actively competing for millennials’ business through their social advertising efforts, made it their policy to drop any of their customers who drove for a rideshare service — since ridesharing services don’t fit within the clear cut lines between personal and commercial insurance.

If you’re looking to attract millennials, you can compete by appealing to specific segments or cohorts within the generation, or you can join the deep-pocketed fight to out-spend rather than outwit the competition.


Some businesses are getting it right. MetroMile, a new pay-per-mile car insurance designed to work seamlessly with Uber’s commercial insurance, isn’t just marketing to millennials. Instead, it’s offering a new service that dovetails with the emerging lifestyle choices of specific segments within the millennial demographic. MetroMile meets a very real need for Lyft and Uber drivers who have been unable to find a car insurance willing to blur the lines between personal and commercial driver coverage. Instead of competing with the size of their ad budget, MetroMile is competing with relevance by zeroing in on the habits of a specific cohort within the millennial demographic: the growing number of people who drive for ridesharing services to earn side income. If you’re looking to grab the attention of millennials, you’ll need to identify how your products or service could be positioned to create relevant and meaningful value for a specific segment or segments within the millennial market.


Ron Skurat (not verified)March 22, 2016 - 9:13pm

I agree that there needs to be a middle-tier insurance option for freelance drivers & delivery people, but to expect companies like Geico to provide this option now, misunderstands the market. Large firms like Geico, which focus on the 80/20 rule and compete solely on price, have no interest in a niche market like Lyft & Dominos drivers, nor should they. MetroMile is providing a valuable service to people willing to pay a little extra for flexibility & peace of mind, but for a commodity provider like Geico to let specialty business go to a specialty company is not neglecting millenials, it's basic economics. MetrMile should be praised for identifying an unmet market need and filling that need, but criticism of Geico is misplaced.

Connie Vaughn (not verified)March 23, 2016 - 11:04am

I am of the age to parent millennials and love being surrounded by my kids and their friends. Some know who they are and where they want to go; some struggle with life's questions. I get to let them know that it's all okay. I have struggled with life's questions in my 40s and 50s...We get through it. It's messy, then it's clearer, then it's success and confidence, then it's messy again (if you have chosen to continue growing and evolving).