Millennials are tired of being bombarded with marketing messages. Marketers spend 500 percent more on millennials than any other generation. Brands are so determined to win the future they’re neglecting older demographics with more buying power.

Not that it matters to millennials; they’re cash-strapped and would much rather buy experiences than products, or travel, then post dozens of images on Instagram. None of that’s strictly true, either. Attempting to pigeon hole an entire generation according to rehashed stereotypes is exactly what’s wrong with demographic-based marketing.

The term millennials describes those born between 1984 and 2004 © Mobility Women
The term millennials describes those born between 1984 and 2004 © Mobility Women

Millennials, a term coined by academics William Strauss and Neil Howe, describe those born between 1984 and 2004. Surely the most misunderstood generations in history. According to stereotypes, they’re both selfless and selfish, entrepreneurial and lazy.

No wonder brands have a hard time communicating with them. Some brands attempt to get down with the kids, with embarrassing results. Just take a look at this emoji-overload attempt to publish a press release, promoting Chevy's 2016 Cruze car.

Or take a look at this. An American nonprofit, Drug-Free Kids, spent $8 million on this campaign to encourage kids to open a dialogue with their parents about drugs. To anyone not fluent in emojis, the first line reads, ‘Eyeballs, the number one, ant, peace sign, flexing arm, inbox, peach.’

Apparently the advert reads, “I want to fit in, but I don't want to smoke.” Good thing no one was smoking anything when they thought that one up!

Assuming you don’t want to alienate millions of customers with 21 percent of discretionary purchasing power at their disposal, let’s consider ways tech brands have already got millennial marketing figured out.

1. Netflix

Before you get the marketing aspect right, you need a product/service that this generation wants in the first place. Subscription content/products are high on many millennials shopping lists, if not bank statements already.

Netflix uses social media and user statistics to create content. It’s already well known for Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Making a Murderer and dozens of other original series and documentaries. Popularity generates increased user-acquisition since millions turn to social media to rave about shows they love.

2. Dollar Shave Club

Another subscription business built on the same model as Software as a Service (SaaS) startups. For a monthly fee, razors and grooming products are sent in the post. Now, here’s why the ‘millennials are lazy’ myth could reappear. Older generations mainly go to shops or shop online for these products; whereas this brand appeals to people who want products delivered without effort or thought. Is that lazy, or just efficient?

Selling products online isn’t innovative for a generation that grew up with computers. Even those at the top end of the age spectrum started using them before they were teens.

Technology has made it possible to cut out the shopping/discovery stage, providing customers with everything from coffee to beer, children’s activities to underwear in the post, for a small monthly fee.

3. Gillette

Gillette’s use of social media to engage fans before launching a new product range earns it a place on this list. It started with a survey of 1000 women, whereby over one-third admitted that facial hair had stopped them kissing a guy because of his facial hair.

Before long, this evolved into a Kiss & Tell campaign, resulting in a YouTube video with over 2 million views. Once they had sufficient traction and engagement, Gillette announced the launch of their Sensitive Skin Portfolio. Great use of social media in a pre-launch campaign!

4. AT&T

American phone giant, AT&T, went simple and fairly low-tech, to launch a new marketing campaign. Their platform of choice: Tumblr.

The message, a simple one - a text message (published as a sponsored post) that read “when you know what you want call me.” It spoke to anyone in a relationship. A real life message, rather than marketing copy was much more effective, which earned them high levels of brand engagement.

Marketing to millennials does not have to be complex. It isn’t difficult. Tech companies that are already working on solving problems that make their lives easier are already half way there. Just don’t try and market to them in emojis.

Jeremy Iveson is the founder of Thrive, creators of Team, a business management tool for creative and digital studios.