Mobilizing Cell Phones for Millennials

7 minute read

Upland Admin

This article is the third of a three-part series analyzing how to use mobile to market to millennials. Read part one Landing a Millennial: Hook Line and Sinker or part two How to Retain A Millennial On Social Media In Three Steps.

Now that we are equipped with general strategies for successfully marketing to millennials, the next level up is figuring out how to develop a targeted strategy that will most efficiently reach millennials with the message you want them to hear.

Research tells us that 63.2% of millennials use their mobile phones to go on the Internet. Millennials are also much more likely to access the Internet with their mobile devices rather than using desktop computers. Moreover, it’s clear that millennials are using their cellphones as a main source of accessing information that they need. 62% of peoplebetween ages 18-44 say that their loyalty to a brand impacts their decisions in online shopping. And how can a brand influence their loyalty? 48% of this same group of peoplesay that their loyalty toward a brand is dependent on the experience that the brand creates.

The overarching message that follows: brands need to figure out how to develop relationships with their millennial customers by creating mobile experiences. Why mobile? Because mobile is the medium through which most millennials are accessing the Internet. Beyond just this, not only has mobile usage been on the rise throughout the past few years, but mobile phones are constantly with millennials. Access to a millennial’s mobile device is direct line to their back pocket.

Given mobile’s potential for millennial ROI, let’s look into three strategies and case studies that demonstrate the skills marketers need to create a profitable mobile experience for a millennial audience.

Mobile Video

We already know that millennials love their social media. Millennials love to share, and what better way to share than through photos and videos? Instagram, a millennial favorite for sharing has amassed a community of over 100 million people in only three years. Until the summer of 2013, Millennials used Vine to record videos. But now that Instagram also offers the ability to record videos, it becomes increasingly important for marketers to utilize mobile video to capture the millennial audience.

Intelligent millennial marketing requires using video and images to reach millennials on an appropriate on-the-go channel. Take Red Bull’s Instagram campaign. Red Bull asks customers to use hashtags such as #GivesYouWings, #shareyourwings and #FlyingFridays. This method of advertising is effective for two reasons: first, it allows the brand to constantly interact with millennials regardless of their location. By channeling this type of campaign through mobile, millennials can easily interact with Red Bull. Second, an advertising campaign such as this essentially self-propels. Red Bull only needs to advertise its campaign once for its customers to start doing the brand touting on their own.


Mobile applications and incentives for opt-in

About 57% of millennials are smartphone users. This makes advertising through mobile applications that much more critical to reaching the millennial population. Millennials are constantly interacting with their phones to find information on the products that they’re interested in purchasing. Millennials have high BS detectors and don’t want to be told anything. The creation of a mobile application allows millennials to find data on their own and also opens an opportunity for the brand to create a lasting relationship with this target demographic.

Take the classic example of success: Starbucks. The Starbucks success is no secret. The company now generates 10% of its revenue from mobile, and processes more than three million mobile payment transactions per week. The results of the success of the Starbucks campaign are undoubtedly compelling — so let’s take a look at why.

The iOS Starbucks application offers a number of features that appeal to millennials. There’s the obvious useful function of being able to pay with your phone, which is clearly becoming more and more attractive to buyers as indicated by Starbucks’ increase in revenue through mobile transactions. Beyond just this, Starbucks customers can also keep track of their loyalty cards conveniently through their application.

Note that there are a lot of applications that can do these things. Why does the Starbucks one stand out? As a millennial, one of my favorite things about the Starbucks application is that every week, I receive a new message from the company. Sometimes the messages are about new deals and promotions, but they also frequently send out free music or application downloads. This allows Starbucks to constantly stay relevant in my millennial mind.

There’s one final commonality throughout the Starbucks mobile application that needs to be highlighted — the convenience that it offers to its consumer. Millennials love convenience, and Starbucks makes it absurdly easy for Millennials to keep buying from them; from paying to keeping track of reward points and hearing about promotions without ever needing to even step into a store, the Starbucks mobile application is an extremely well-executed example of millennial marketing.

Telling the story

I briefly mentioned earlier in this article that millennials don’t want to be told things. This doesn’t mean that you as a marketer shouldn’t convey your message and your brand to the millennial. It does mean, however, that a thirty-second PSA about the merits of something isn’t going to be as effective as creating a holistic, interactive experience in which the millennials believe that they are discovering things for themselves. Millennials don’t want to just be pelted with irrelevant advertisements—we want cohesion, we want a story.

Take Chipotle’s recent Adventurrito campaign. To celebrate its 20 year anniversary, Chipotle created a campaign in which it gave away a burrito a week for a year to twenty contestants each day; the grand prize winner won a burrito a week for twenty years. In order to participate, customers were encouraged to solve puzzles and refer friends to the campaign. Each additional referral or puzzle solved increased one’s chances of winning, and only people who could solve all the puzzles were entered into the ultimate raffle.

This campaign effectively plays on many things that make it an effective millennial marketing tool. First of all, it’s engaging. As a marketer, you may notice that this campaign does not explicitly say anything about the burrito or products that Chipotle sells. Rather than talking about the merits of a product (what traditional advertising would do), it completely redefines the concept of advertising by creating an experience for the user. This doesn’t mean that the experience shouldn’t be relevant: many of the puzzle questions that were asked discussed bits and pieces of Chipotle history.

Now for the mobile part: in exchange for mobile phone numbers, Chipotle began offering clues to the puzzles. Not only was SMS integral for the campaign to even progress, but it also allowed Chipotle to provide information about its restaurant to increase interest and foot traffic. Users had to text in a keyword in order to receive a clue about each day’s puzzle. And we now know that collecting this type of data is integral to a marketer’s success.


We all know two important facts: that the use of mobile is rising and that millennials represent a large portion of the future market. It’s probably a no-brainer that marketers need to figure out how to reach this demographic. While social networking is a very powerful alternative way of reaching millennials, mobile is perhaps one of the more effective and potent methods. Marketers need to use things such as mobile video and mobile applications in order to help create an experience for the millennial. Marketing to millennials is all about the holistic experience of interacting with a brand, and the future of any marketer’s ROI is going to be contingent upon crafting a compelling millennial mobile experience.

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