KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Oct 14 2010

Posted by

Marketing to Millennials

Many of us are experienced in catering to Baby Boomers and Generation X—generations once- and twice-removed from the Great Depression.

Although I’m categorizing with a pretty broad stroke, these groups have some knowledge of how products fit together or understand the process. They like to work with their hands or at least have some understanding of the concepts of furniture-making or how a house is built, even if they don’t know all the particulars. They both recognize and appreciate your professional knowledge as a valuable part of their design decisions.

However, if you’re planning to be in this field for the next decade or longer, you’ll need to adjust your presentations and expectations for the next upcoming group, the Millennials.

Millennials (or Echo Boomers or Gen Y) were born anywhere between the late ’70s –’90s. Unlike the Baby Boomers, who grew up with the birth of television, and Gen X, who saw the birth of the Internet, Millennials grew up with instant communication at their fingertips. As for knowing how products go together, they haven’t a clue and don’t care. They just want it as soon as they order.

As a group, they haven’t yet learned that design isn’t quite as easy as they think, but again they don’t have to. In their minds, expertise is free. It’s things that are valued, both products and technology. It’s about catering to their lifestyle, and on their level, and if you don’t adjust now, you’ll lose out.

Millennials are looking for:

Products and technology—Are you up-to-date on the latest wireless technology? Do you know what the colors are that have trickled down from the latest television episode of Mad Men? Can you converse about a communication and recharging center? You’ll need to, because this generation is used to taking inspiration from the technology they use and the shows they watch.

Social and global responsibility—Green again, except this crowd is pretty savvy about finding out what is greenwashing and what isn’t. They want manufacturers who are environmentally responsible and products that help the world in general.

Items they can see and touch—It’s a double-edge sword, because they expect you to buy and display the fancy $1,500.00 European pullout simply so they can see it in real life (they’ve been catered to their whole life; it isn’t going to change now.) However, if it’s cheaper on the Web, they’re going to order it there.

I’m not sure how we’re going to solve this one, because unlike a website, we have overhead—unless you can convince them about buying local, or we all band together to create something that is only available to us, it’s something that’s going to need some serious thought.

So, what you’ll need to do is provide that level of service they’re looking for, while building in both the value of your expertise, and why they should work with you.

One of the best (and only) ways will be to build a savvy web presence. And—sorry to tell you—a website will no longer be enough. A blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or a combination of all three will be standard (and is getting there pretty quickly already.) This is the group who think nothing of going to a restaurant and texting one another instead of talking.

Milliennials want to get to know you and what you stand for, not just the company line. Generic “business-speak” isn’t going to cut it. What are you passionate about? What motivates you?

This is your chance to build in your value. This is how they’re going to find you in the first place, not from phone books or advertising in a magazine. They’ll want to be able to “ping” you on Twitter if there’s a problem, and they’ll expect an immediate response. Failure to do so could lead to a p.r. mess. (I know—as if we didn’t have enough on our plate.)

On the plus side, if you are clear in your vision and can provide the answers and service they’re looking for—even have a bit of fun with it—Millennials are an extremely loyal group. Your cachet won’t grow over years, it’ll spread like wildfire overnight. A week in social media is a year in standard.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Until next time,


This entry was posted on Thursday, October 14th, 2010 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Business, Inspiration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1.  Ann Porter |

    One thing that stands out about Millennials is that if they really want something they WILL find a way to get it.