Stop Marketing to Millennials. Start Marketing to the “Connected Generation”.

This week, there were three headlines in my inbox, from three different publications:

Notice a trend? Advertisers want to target millennials – and fast.

DeathtoStock_NotStock4

Image: Death to the Stock Photo

Unfortunately, this means there’s a lot of unnecessary hoopla in the media about “what millennials want”. But I’ve got a theory: Brands, you need to stop marketing to millennials, and start marketing to the “connected generation”.

I started Kiip when I was 19 years old and became – at the time – the youngest founder to receive VC funding. Fast-forward five years later and I’m a sought-after speaker on topics that range from teenage entrepreneurship to millennial targeting. I know what millennials want, because I’m part of that generation.

If you aren’t already aware, millennials are typically defined as “as those born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter.” But targeting only millennials limits the breadth of your brand scope. Reaching the entire connected generation, rather than only millennials, will yield you more long-term success.

To start, you need to understand who the “connected generation” is.

Who Is the Connected Generation?

Simply put, the connected generation is anyone who owns a smartphone. They’re still a demographic, but you can think of them as the audience most likely to purchase your product or service.

I understand the appeal of millennials. As older generations retire, brands look at building loyalty among younger demographics, who can create purchase patterns that last for the next several decades. Brands are hoping to find their next core consumer base in their existing consumers’ children.

But targeting only millennials means you’re missing the entire breadth of smartphone users.

Take my mother for instance. She’s more connected than most millennials I know. She owns an iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. She can shop, tweet and do practically anything on her devices. She is the type of audience brands should target.

See what I’m getting at? Advertisers should go after usage of phones, not their owners’ ages.


“Advertisers should go after usage
of phones
, not their owners’ ages.


What Does the Connected Generation Want?

1. Instant Gratification

For the connected generation, everything is on-demand. Lonely? Open Tinder. Hungry? Install Postmates. Don’t feel like hailing a cab in the rain? No problem. Use Uber. When everything you could ever want is clicks away, you have elevated expectations from brands and apps. This is a good thing; it forces the industry to improve and compete for consumers.

It also addresses consumers’ shortened attention spans – which are, to be fair, partially the result of mobile devices. In recent years, the average human attention span has fallen to a mere eight seconds. To put that in perspective, the attention span of a goldfish rests at nine.

Image: Flickr, Lachlan Donald

This means that if we’re not instantly gratified, we lose interest. This is apparent in advertising, where it’s been reported that a fifth of viewers will click out of a video ad in the first 10 seconds. Ads must be short, simple and relevant, lest advertisers risk losing viewership.

How to do this? If a user wins a level on a mobile game, don’t subject them to a 30-second ad about an irrelevant product. Players should be rewarded for their loyalty to the game with an attention-grabbing advertisement that relays similar interest.

If a player is in the midst of an endless zombie runner on their phone, entice them with a preview for AMC’s Walking Dead. If a shopper favorites a new recipe inside a cooking app, offer them a free sample of one of the suggested ingredients.

Make it immediate. Make it relevant.

Today’s marketing is about instant gratification and appealing to users’ deepest desires. The rules require advertisers to keep content short, focus on images and craft headlines that say it all.

2. Improved Service

The connected generation has an elevated expectation of service. They crave value in helpful services that make lives easier. See any of the aforementioned apps (Postmates, Uber, etc.) for an idea of what this means. Not only do we expect services to be immediate, but we also expect providers to go above and beyond.

Interpreting this can be a little tricky. For brands that produce tangible products, this is about recognizing the “moment”. Advil, for example, can’t instantly gratify consumers by materializing medicine out of thin air when headaches emerge. However, Advil can acknowledge mobile moments – say, when runners finish a workout – and celebrate their awesome achievement by offering a coupon to ease sore muscles.

This “moments” approach provides value by making brands human. Moments may seem trivial at a glance, but they make the world of difference to consumers.

3. Increased Serendipity

In a sentence, being a serendipitous brand dictates that you surprise and delight your users. This means deploying copycat-worthy functionalities within your app or site, or launching advertising campaigns that enthrall viewers.

Serendipity works for brands, apps – everyone. A few examples:

  • Website/App: You may recall the launch of Jet. It was hailed as a worthy Amazon competitor, which is no easy feat. Jet has an eye-catching shopping cart that dynamically changes in prices based on supply and demand. This example of always-on behavior incentivizes consumers to come back to the site again and again.

  • App: Having consistent records of your online activity – texts, emails, calls – is the boring standard. So Snapchat defied “normal” and eliminated photo  and video records. By making images vanish after a few seconds, Snapchat engaged and delighted the entire connected generation. In an era when everything is recorded, an interaction that lacked transcript became a refreshing take on communications. Ask any brand advertising on the platform, and you’ll see how successful this strategy has been.

  • Campaign: British Airways took home a Grand Prix at Cannes for an innovative campaign that linked aircrafts flying over London to digital billboards. The billboards recognized when a plane was overhead and transformed to images of children pointing towards the sky. Passerbies on the streets below were enchanted by the ads – truly unlike anything seen in London before.

Here you can see that being different, without being off-brand, can work in your favor. Cute yet clever interactions will delight the connected generation and put your brand in the forefront of their minds.

In the end though, remember the bigger brand picture. The connected generation is one that demands a true company-consumer relationship that goes beyond a simple marketing message. Give your connected consumers memorable experiences, and you’ll build loyalty that lasts a lifetime.


Kiip redefines how brands connect with consumers through moment-based rewards. Hundreds of brands already use Kiip. To learn more, visit kiip.me/brands.

More from Kiip

  • Why Pepsi Chooses MomentsWhy Pepsi Chooses Moments This week, we sat down with Josh Nafman, Senior Digital Brand Manager at Pepsi. He was kind enough to talk to us about marketing with Kiip and where the industry is heading. What […]
  • Kiip Up #43: Marketing to the Connected Generation & MoreKiip Up #43: Marketing to the Connected Generation & More Hello Kiipers! Here’s what you may have missed during your Halloween-induced sugar coma. Kiip press and happenings We’ve added some amazing new talent to our leadership […]
  • 5 Signs You Need a New Loyalty Platform5 Signs You Need a New Loyalty Platform Loyalty isn’t one size fits all. It’s not even one device fits all. And chances are, if you’ve been settling for the same mediocre plan since your brand launched, your loyalty program […]
  • Brett M

    While the premise of the “connected generation” is interesting, I’m not sure it works as a label across age groups. For example, a “single and 65″ is not likely to go to Tinder while a ’25 and single” is. I could go across all examples but it would be exhausting. These are certainly more than exceptions. They are instead factors of age. The older person was used to a dial up modem, so may have more patience waiting for technology than a younger person.

    There are advantages to thinking of “connected users” as a group, but I’m not sure the marketing segmentation can be that broad and still be as useful as you’re suggesting.