What Makes Them Buy: Millennial Men

8 Defining Traits About Millennial Men That’ll Help You Target Your Marketing Efforts to Convert More Sales

Millennial men. How do you get ‘em? How do you move Millennial males to Click, Like, Engage, Opt-in, and Buy in your next digital marketing campaign? For the past few years, younger Millennials have garnered a reputation for being difficult to target, but the crop of spenders born between about 1980 to around 1997 (WHY ARE WE STILL SO FUZZY ON THIS?) aren’t as hard to read as marketers make out.

So… in our trademark irreverent way, I’m going to tell you in this post how to find, get in front of and woo Millennial males by telling you some of the shopping habits we’ve seen showing up repeatedly in the data.

Let’s do this.


Yeah, They’re Different, But...

It’s true that targeting Millennial men is different from targeting Gen X and Boomers (at least until Millennial men start having kids). But that’s not really because Millennial men are weird. It actually has more to do with their levels of exposure.

In this post, I want to identify eight important traits of Millennial men that you can leverage this holiday season during your campaigns. And when the shopping frenzy comes to an end, you can lean on these same traits to refine your marketing strategies during the Super Bowl and on into March Madness.

Saddle up.

Trait #1: Millennial Men Have Access to Tons of Information

Millennial men are digital beings. Not in a Ghost in the Shell kind of way. But most Millennial men probably cram to remember a time when they didn’t have the Internet at home, at school or both. In 1997 when the youngest Millennial babies were being born, only 18 percent of U.S. households had Internet access.

Three years later, the percentage of U.S. homes with the Internet had more than doubled, reaching 41.5 percent. 2001 was the tipping point; half of American households had the Internet. That means by the time the youngest Millennials entered kindergarten, most of their friends had the Internet at home.


Source: U.S. Census

Millennial men are used to having access to copious amounts of information. They are self-educated now… which means the role of the marketer has shifted from that of an informant to more of an adviser, ironing out the nuances between products and services that may look the same at first glance.

The way marketers approached Boomer and Gen X men when they were in their 20s and 30s probably won’t work on Millennial men because they can literally Google what you’re saying as you’re saying it.

And Google’s faster than your wordy pitch.

To deliver more than just information you need to focus more on delivering insights and communicating the experience consumers will have with your product.

The influencer who comes to mind for me is Lewis Hilsenteger from the popular YouTube channel Unbox Therapy, currently boasting 12.5 million subscribers and 2.3 billion video views. Hilsenteger showcases and reviews all sorts of cool technology and broadcasts his reviews to social.


Source: Unbox Therapy

Trait #2: Millennial Men Are the Most Educated Generation of Men in History

If that sounds like a killer stat, that’s because it is.

According to “15 Facts About Millennials,” a report released by the US Council of Economic Advisers (you can view and download that report here), Millennials are the most educated generation in US history.

In 2013, 47 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds had a post-secondary degree (Associates, Bachelor’s, or Graduate degree). Another 18 percent had attended college without earning a degree.

The way to a Millennial man’s heart (and wallet) isn’t through gimmicks and celebrity endorsements. They’re too smart for that, and we have seen too much as a society to believe the words of a celebrity whose only connection with a brand is the contract he signed to promote that brand.

Except for Matthew David McConaughey, who sort of looks like he put out word that he needed a car and the Lincoln folks began building cars just for him.

“That’s a big bull…” Oscar winning actor Matthew McConaughey vs an 1800-pound bull - my favorite of his  Lincoln commercials .

“That’s a big bull…” Oscar winning actor Matthew McConaughey vs an 1800-pound bull - my favorite of his Lincoln commercials.


Only 1% of Millennials say they are moved by ads from brands. Instead, they make their buying decisions based on independent research, online reviews, and user-generated content.

Like Millennial women, Millennial men favor authenticity over ads, social proof over self-proclamations, and the recommendation of a friend (even an online friend) over a million-dollar Super Bowl spot.

That said, a Millennial man will likely respond to the same types of content his grandpa did - ads that are funny and clever, and ads that turn regular guys into heroes by putting them in extreme circumstances. (I'm sure this explains how Captain America has made his way down through the generations over the last 77 years.)

Trait #3: Millennial Men Earn Less Than Boomers

Millennial men earn 20 percent less than their Boomer dads did at the same stage in life, despite being more educated. When compared with their parents, some Millennials are earning only slightly more with college degrees than Boomers did without degrees.


Source: 15 Economic Facts About Millennials

The average college educated Millennial has more debt in the form of student loans than did their parents at the same age. Plus:

  • Millennials are less likely to have jobs while attending college

  • Millennials have experienced slower wage growth than Gen Xers and Boomers.

  • Millennials aren’t buying homes at the rates their parents did. They are renting longer and living in multigenerational homes.

  • In 2016, one in three Millennials lived in multigenerational households, more than any other generation. Men between the ages of 25 and 34 are more likely than women the same age to live in multigenerational homes.

  • Percentage wise, there are as many Americans living in multigenerational homes now (20 percent) as there were in the years following the Great Depression (21 percent). In stark contrast, in 1980, when Boomers were in their 20s and 30s, only 12 percent of them lived in multigenerational homes.


Source: Pew Research


But don’t cry for Millennials just yet. While Millennials are earning less than their parents did at their age, a recent survey found that Millennials are also more likely to plan their spending than Gen Xers and Boomers.

In fact, older Millennials and younger Gen Xers were the primary participants in the life design movement that Tim Ferriss kicked off with his New York Times best-selling book, The 4-Hour Workweek a decade ago, a lifestyle centered around the idea of living richly by spending money and time on the things that matter most to you.

CEO and author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Ramit Sethi starts off his Personal Finance class at CreativeLive.com this way: “I don’t know… Is anyone else tired of 65 year-old guys telling us we can’t spend money on lattes?”

Life design is about investing in the things you want and restricting the resources you put into the things you don’t want. For some Millennials that could mean downsizing your living situation after getting a much-deserved raise and spending more on international travel. It could mean renting a house instead of buying a home, or using rideshare services instead of buying a car and using the money you save to explore other passions or fulfill other indulgences, like eating out, or subscription meal services.

Most of us probably can’t imagine our parents being okay with that. Heck, when I called to wish my uncle a happy birthday a few years ago, one of his first questions was about my living situation.

“Do you live in an apartment?” he asked.

“I live in a condo, Unc,” I answered.

“Do you rent or do you own?”

Classic Boomer line of questioning, right?  

When it comes to things like renting vs buying or saving vacations for retirement, Millennials are the anti-Boomer. But Millennials do spend on the things that matter to them.

In 2017, Millennials led in holiday travel and holiday shopping despite being less likely than previous generations to stretch their budgets with credit cards.  By and large, they would rather pay in cash than to rack up high-interest credit card debt, and with less disposable income, that takes planning.

According to Charles Schwab, 34 percent of Millennials have a written financial plan compared to 21 percent of Gen Xers and 18 percent of Boomers.

That said, you need to play the long game. Millennials are planners and researchers with more than enough information at their fingertips to learn what they want to know about new products and services.

Trait #4: Millennial Men Do Shop... More Than Their Dads and Grandpas Ever Did

Millennials represent a quarter of the US population and have more than $200 billion in annual buying power. In addition, they hold considerable influence over how their Boomer parents spend money (that’s another $500B to spend indirectly).

#30 09 24 - 8 Traits to Know If You're Marketing to Millennial Men_6.png

So, Millennial men have money, and they spend it. Millennial men are willing to shell out more money for a product if it will last longer than a similar product of lesser quality. This is especially true of Millennial dads, who tend not to be coupon-clippers, even during the early years of building a family.

By and large, 66 percent of Millennial dads prefer quality products that they think are the best for their families, as opposed to what’s most convenient or the least expensive.

Millennial men buy clothes more often than did men one generation ago, picking up new apparel items at least twice a month. They also tend to be early adopters of new technologies and products.

Millennial men spend an average of $2,200 a year in retail, directing their spending toward home improvement, apparel, digital, electronics, and mass merchandisers, and they tend to shop alone.


Source: CNBC

Trait #5: Millennial Men Defer to Social Media for Purchasing Decisions

About 70 percent of Millennial men use social media, according to Nielson Newswire. They use blogs, online news websites, and social networking sites to make purchase decisions.

As well, 45 percent Millennial dads typically use search to get answers to questions on everything from the best baby products to the best cities for families. This they do in lieu of getting advice from their own dads.

Far more than Boomer dads, Millennial dads are kicking in on one-on-one time with the kids, shopping decisions and housework. As most Millennial families are two-income households (sort of goes back to what I talked about in Trait #3), the changing role of fathers in the home is just too big for marketers to ignore.

Millennial dads dedicate 28 percent of their time online to dad-dedicated content and 60 percent of Millennial fathers say they’re better dads because of the resources they’re able to find online.

There’s an opportunity here, of course. Most brands target moms with respect to things like grocery shopping, household items, and child rearing. Many Millennial dads are feeling like there’s not enough brand-owned content online that’s specifically for fathers. Remember how I said men like seeing themselves as the hero in ads? Well, dads do, too. And typically, dads are positioned in TV ads and other content as add-ons, like a cool Texan uncle who smells like leather and tells great stories (sorry, I was in Dallas over the weekend).

Millennial dads are looking for brands that produce quality products and that are listening and responsive. If you can accomplish that, you’ll get Millennial dads on your team.

There’s one important thing I’m not mentioning here, though.

Ad blockers.

Omnicron Media Group estimated nearly 30 percent of internet users are using ad blockers, and high-income Millennials are the biggest user of ad blocking software.

#30 09 24 - 8 Traits to Know If You're Marketing to Millennial Men_8.jpg

According to an Elite Daily Millennial Consumer Study, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have the most sway over the spending habits of Millennials. Brands that can build ongoing relationships with trusted social influencers have the best chance of reaching Millennials.

Trait #6: Millennial Men Also Leverage Social for Bragging Rights

Bragging rights, I get. I’ve seen more than my fair share of calf muscles, black and white gym photos and shirtless guys in sunglasses. I’m in Atlanta, so I’ve also come across the occasional gold Bentley.

(Why, dude? Why?)

That’s what comes to mind when I think of Millennial men using social media to brag.

BUT - and I’m totally stunned by this one - according to Allianz Global Assistance USA 2018 Vacation Confidence Index Millennial men are more likely than any other group to post vacation and travel photos for the sole purpose of making people envious.

I know, right?

The study reports that 36 percent of Millennials ages 18 - 34 have engaged in social media deception - curating their social media feed with pictures that make their travels look better than they actually were. Millennials in general are twice as likely as Gen Xers and seven times more likely than Boomers to practice social media deception.

#30 09 24 - 8 Traits to Know If You're Marketing to Millennial Men_9.jpg

AND there is a direct correlation between trusting what you see in your social media feed and the likelihood of indulging in deceptive social media practices themselves.


Trait #7: Millennial Men Expect More Out of Brands

Millennials hold brands to a higher social standard than previous generations. They expect the retailers and service providers to be helpful at every stage of the sales process, and responsive after a sale is complete. They also expect brands to take on the responsibility to do good out in the community. When they find brands who are crushing it in business and in the community, Millennials tend to stick with them.

The Elite Daily study I mentioned earlier confirms that 62 percent of Millennials demonstrated more loyalty to brands that engaged with their customers on social networks. In fact, half of the Millennials surveyed consider themselves brand-loyal. Millennials, as a whole, are more loyal to brands than Gen Xers and Boomers, in part because of the level of social proof and transparency social media offers.

Trait #8: Millennial Men Spend a Significant Amount of Time Online

Where have all the cowboys gone? Well, if the cowboy was born between 1980 and 2000, here’s where Nielsen.com says you can find him:

  • Millennial men 18 to 34 years old make up 30% of the TV market

  • Millennial men spend an average of 23 hours a week watching traditional television.

  • African American Millennial men watch 3 hours of video online per week.

  • Hispanic Millennial men watch 2 hours of online video per week.

  • Asian American Millennial men watch nearly 4 hours of online video per week

  • 88% of Millennial men listen to the radio for an average of 11 hours a week.

  • 38% of Millennial men use Twitter

  • 55% of US Millennials ages 18 to 29 are using Instagram

#30 09 24 - 8 Traits to Know If You're Marketing to Millennial Men_11.jpg

Let’s Wrap It Up

Here’s some good news for you: As Millennial men get older, they do begin to adopt some of the more traditional habits of men in their late twenties and thirties, habits we’ve seen before... habits we know how to market to. So, it turns out Millennial men are not as “mysterious and inscrutable” (quote from Señor Chang on an episode of Community) as marketers once thought.

What is new to brands and marketers is the way in which Millennial men make their buying decisions. They are not swayed by the most bedazzled ad or the celebrity endorsement. Millennial men focus on the brand itself and choose whether to buy products from that brand based on input from their online community, user-generated content about the brand itself, and their own thoughtful deliberation.