New Study: Marketing to Millennials in 2019

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By Thomas O'Shaughnessy Updated August 3, 2021


New Study: Marketing to Millennials in 2019

Ah, the elusive millennial.

Hailed as the killers of countless, well-established companies – from Applebee’s to napkin manufacturers – marketers just can’t seem to figure this generation out. They're highly opinionated, tech-savvy, and, most alarmingly, absolutely everywhere!

There are approximately 71 million millennials in the U.S., representing roughly 30% of the country's population. While many companies take the approach of blaming millennials for declining profits, we chose to try to understand them better instead.

We surveyed over 1,100 Americans to learn how millennial's digital consumption habits differ from those of older generations (learn more about our methodology here).

What digital ad platforms can brands leverage to connect with millennials?

Do millennials really care how your website looks?

Will HubSpot's inbound methodology be effective on younger generations?

Read on for answers to these questions and more!

Key Findings

  • Facebook remains the dominant social media channel for reaching the widest possible audience, but younger millennials are increasingly leaning towards YouTube and Instagram as their go-to social platforms
  • Rising concerns about Facebook and privacy could impact advertisers' bottom line: 77% of millennials say they're concerned about the company's use of their personal data
  • Influencer marketing is a must-use strategy in 2019: Millennials are 54% more likely than older generations to buy a product or service recommended by a social media influencer, such as a YouTube or Instagram star
  • When seeking to engage with millennials, a mix of "funny and informative" seems to be the best approach — funny ads are the most likely to resonate with millennials (43%), followed by informative ads (29%)
  • Millennials are heavily influenced by their friends online: 65% said they’d be more likely to buy a product or service recommended by a friend on social media
  • Inbound marketers beware: 32% of millennials – and only 15% of 18 to 24 year olds – said they’d be willing to submit their name, email, and phone number for an informative, downloadable guide or resource
  • Website and/or app appearance are more important to millennials than older generations: 92% said a website or app's appearance was important when deciding whether or not to submit their personal information

Fast Facts

  • Millennials overwhelmingly prefer their phones for making online purchases: 58% say their phones are their go-to online shopping devices, compared to their laptops, desktops, and tablets
  • Millennials are 25% more likely than older generations to buy a product or service because of an ad on social media, and they're 25% more likely to engage with online ads in general
  • 74% of millennials said they’d buy a product or service if the company behind it supports a cause they personally believe in

Top real estate agents (particularly discount real estate agents and flat fee real estate agents should check out our Millennial Home Buyer Study to learn even more about this demographic!

Key Insights & Analysis

Facebook is still the biggest player in social media, but privacy concerns might be hurting advertisers’ bottom lines

Facebook has been the biggest player in social media for a while now. With a massive advertising platform that’s full of targeting options to help brands reach the right audience at the right time, Facebook can’t be ignored by any marketing team.

Per our survey, Facebook ads are the most likely to lead to a purchase of a product or service among all generations.

However, Facebook is starting to lose favor among millennials and older generations alike. According to our survey, 77% of millennials are particularly concerned about Facebook’s use of their personal data.

We also found that young adults (ages 18 to 24, a mix of young millennials and older Generation Zers) are 34% less likely than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers to purchase a product after viewing a Facebook ad. Youtube and Instagram are becoming staples of young adult online media consumption, and these ad platforms are leading to more conversion for marketers.

Meanwhile, a Pew study found that 26% of adults deleted Facebook from their phones following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Most notably, 44% of younger users (ages 18 to 29) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their phone since the scandal broke.

Advertisers need to start exploring other digital marketing channels, as Facebook becomes a less reliable platform to reach younger adults. In particular, brands should start exploring platforms like Instagram and YouTube, as usage among millennials and Generation Z continues to surge.

How to Reach Millennials: Online Video, Social Media with Pictures, and Online Influencers

With Facebook’s waning influence over younger generations, new channels are emerging. Millennials do want to engage with brands online: we found that they’re actually 25% more likely to engage with online ads than older generations.

It’s not surprising that Instagram and YouTube are becoming popular platforms for marketers looking to reach millennials. Millennials are twice as likely to engage with online video ads than older generation, and they're more likely to engage with social media ads that feature video and images. Visually provocative ads that catch millennial eyes in a crowded news or video feed will help advertisers stand out in 2019.

YouTube is a particularly compelling media for advertisers to utilize, because Millennials officially watch more digital video than traditional television programming according to an eMarketer study.

However, 30% of millennials aren't willing to engage with online ads, leaving 21.3 million millennials unaffected (or annoyed) by online ad buys.

In response, marketers need to start exploring alternatives to online ad buying, and influencer marketing is one emerging tactic that is proving incredibly effective — when done correctly, that is.

44% of millennials have bought a product or service recommended by an online influencer, compared to only 28% of Baby Boomers and Generation X respondents.

The first step to a successful social media influencer strategy? Look for YouTube and Instagram stars that align with your brand’s vision, values, and ethos.

Respawn Entertainment executed this flawlessly with their 2019 video game title, Apex Legends. The company invested in almost zero paid online ads.

Instead, they reached out to dozens of high profile Twitch video game streamers and asked them to play and promote the game once it launched. Influencers streamed the game through Twitch and promoted via their social accounts throughout the week. Top streamers have thousands of followers that will like, share, and engage with their promotions organically.

The result? 25 million players at the end of launch week, breaking the record previously held by Epic Game's wildly popular Fortnite. EA’s stock jumped 8.5% in that week, all because of a highly targeted influencer campaign centered around people their core demographic genuinely trusts.

Finding top influencers in your industry is an essential part of marketing to millennials in 2019, because it feels authentic, fosters trust, and builds brand loyalty. In other words, your message is a lot more powerful if it's a more objective third party.

And it’s not just influencers millennials look to when deciding what products and services to use: 65% of Gen Y respondents said they're more likely to buy a product or service if their friend recommends it on social media, compared to only 40% of Baby Boomers.

All of this data suggests creating organic conversations around your product or service – and getting influencers and friends to talk about it – is a winning strategy for marketing to millennials in 2019.

Funny and Informative Ads Resonate Most With Millennials

44% of millennials said that funny ads resonated with them the most, while 30% preferred informative ads.

Audiences across generations say they enjoy funny and informative ads, with Baby Boomers leaning a bit more towards the latter. Shocking ads were the least likely to resonate with millennials, so online marketers should be aware that more clicks and impressions on these types of ads won’t necessarily lead to an increase in revenue.

If advertisers are trying to inspire millennials, they should invest in cause-based marketing. 74% of millennials said they’d buy a product or service if the brand behind it supports a cause they personally believe in, a higher response rate than any other generation surveyed.

How to Annoy Millennials and Creep Them Out

Unfortunately, 75% of millennials think social media advertisements are annoying.

As such, marketers should try to avoid running overly aggressive or invasive ads when targeting younger demographics. Take advantage of some of the platforms' more advanced targeting options to heighten your ad's relevance, and be sure to control the frequency at which your ad is served. Otherwise, you might be doing more harm than good.

Another key finding is that 85% of millennials find it creepy or annoying when ads follow them around the internet, also known as remarketing. Marketers shouldn’t necessarily shy away from using this tactic, but think carefully about the frequency at which these ads are served.

Inbound Marketing Might Not Be As Effective for Millennials (If Your Website Isn’t Up to Snuff)

HubSpot’s inbound methodology, offering informative guides in exchange for a lead’s contact information, has become a favorite tactic among marketers. However, its returns may start to diminish as younger generations gain more purchasing power.

32% of millennials – and only 15% of 18-to-24-year-olds – said they’d be willing to submit their name, email, and phone number for an informative, downloadable guide.

Relatively new and/or less credible brands should consider only asking for a name and email: 54% of millennials would be comfortable giving only their name and email in exchange for a downloadable resource.

If Millennials aren't converting on your site, the best solution might be a visual facelift.

Millennials are looking for brands that look and feel trustworthy: 92% of millennials said a website/app’s appearance is important when deciding whether or not to submit their personal information. Buttoning up your website and making form submissions a fluid, easy process will create an immediate sense of trust with this generation.


The proprietary data featured in this report comes from an online survey commissioned by Clever Real Estate and conducted by Pollfish. In total, Pollfish surveyed 1,139 Americans. The survey was distributed using organic sampling on March 22, 2019.

You can view the full survey results here.


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