The Millennial Experience

There are 83 million millennials in the U.S.–more than a quarter of the population. With such formidable numbers, it is clear that to grow, brands need to capture their attention.


The tried-and-true formula Product + Advertising = Success that has worked so well on past generations has lagged for this new crop of consumers. For millennials, it is about the value of experiences and the emotional connection to people, places and products.

This “experience economy” is the new norm for today’s consumer brands, but how can brands leverage the new formula of Product + (Story x Experience) = Success to win with millennials?


“Gone are the days of just showing up and expecting results,” said a senior vice president of client engagement at EMG3. “In an era of mass customization, people want tailored brand interactions–millennials are no different.”

• 78% would rather experience a personalized interaction rather than attending a mass event put on by a brand


With millennials attending an increasing number of live events–only 20% of respondents hadn’t attended a live event in the past year–many brands turn to event sponsorships to reach consumers. This strategy is a sound one:

  • 73% prefer to learn about a brand from a live event or experience than from an advertisement
  • 60% would rather interact with a brand as a sponsor of an event than hear about them in an advertisement
  • 40% have an improved opinion of a brand that sponsors an event they attend

This improvement in opinion is especially strong for female millennials. Strategically chosen event sponsorships are a wise choice, providing an opportunity to create genuine personal interactions to improve the perception of your brand. With millennials attending a wide variety of live events, there are vast opportunities to connect.

While brands have traditionally been wary of overtly tying themselves to a social or environmental cause, a small minority of millennials–just 9%–disapprove when a brand supports a specific cause. Females especially approve, leading men in their enthusiasm by 13 percentage points.


Millennials not only enjoy attending live events, they want to be the first among their circle of friends and family to discover them and share the experience:

  • 62% would rather find and share interesting events than hear about them from others
  • 65% attend because it’s more fun to share with others
  • 24% attend to meet like-minded people

Doing something fun and unusual with your brand can really pay off with millennials. 40% have shared their experience with these kinds of executions on social media, and this reaction is even higher among females (46%).

“Let your brand story be heard and felt by giving millennials experiences that allow them to feel, curate and share your brand firsthand,” Genese said. “The more they can be an active participant in creating that brand experience for themselves, the more they’ll care–and that depth of attachment can be highly rewarding for the brand.”

How rewarding? When millennials find a brand they love, they become ambassadors for it:

  • 90% share brand name recommendations at least occasionally, telling an average of 14 people
  • Females were especially likely to say they “always” tell others about a favored brand (21% vs. 9% of males)
  • 87% make recommendations in person while 48% share them on social media.

Millennials are clear about the elements of an experiential marketing activation they enjoy most–they want to touch, feel and try a product. For a generation raised on high tech, it is of little surprise that adding technology to the mix only adds to the experience.

What is perhaps surprising of such a digital-driven generation, however, is the desire to meet like-minded people. Therefore opportunities to help consumers make connections with others who share a similar self-chosen identity–“find their tribe”–should be considered.


Starting with a great product is only part of the success equation. Adding a balance of experience and storytelling to a product creates a brand that resonates with millennials and draws you into today’s modern experience economy. “To win in the experience economy–or at least to give your brand a fighting chance–brands need to craft their story with the consumer experience at the forefront,” Genese said. “Millennials love brands, but experiences with the brands they love will win over another brand every time.”

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