By David Corelli

Within the cliché of ‘how to market to millennials’, lies the future of business and marketing.


I have a love-hate relationship with clichés.

The disdain is obvious. A cliché, by definition, is a “phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.” In this parody ad from Dissolve, it’s clear how dangerously close we can come to perpetuating ‘millennial marketing’ clichés.

However, the love in clichés. That is more subtle.

For something to become a cliché, there must be some deeper insight. If we peel back the layers, there is real value.

Millennials are a proxy for the way consumers now demand to be interacted with. And within the cocoon of ‘connecting with millennials’, lies the future of business and marketing.

There is no silver bullet answer. But there are key principles that we must use as the foundation of our thinking.

Let’s call it ‘the “Four I” Approach.’


How in tune are you with what people need?

At our core, we must have an unbelievably intimate understanding of what people expect of us, and tailor our offerings to address their needs with everything that we have.

American Express exemplifies this with their Cobalt Card, a new product launched in its first international market. The AMEX team identified the exist rewards structure didn’t resonate with millennials. Rather than build a marketing campaign that pushed their existing cards to be relevant, the company re-imagined the product from the ground up. They re-engineered how points were accumulated to be more relevant with the things the young, urban consumer desired – cafes, restaurants, Airbnbs and Ubers.

Takeaway: There are no shortcuts. To be a brand of choice, we must care more, invest more, and empower more than any other product.


Having an intimately tailored product is only the table stakes.

Today, people expect that products deliver fundamentally the same things (ex. one ‘typical’ mid-sized SUV is not substantially different than another).

When products are considered essentially similar, it is all the other things a brand offers that people base their purchasing decisions on – like the brand personality, environmental impact, or additional benefits.

Ikea continues to build incrementalism around its products to be about much more than selling flat pack furniture:

 – Working on partnerships with online retailers as well as smaller, urban locations and pick up points – adapting to when, where and how consumers want to buy.

 – Building Ikea Place – an app that uses Apple’s ARKit to literally place furniture in your home virtually – easing the barrier of knowing what a piece will look like before buying it.

 – Continuously doing little things that enable consumers to use its products – like Cook This Page, a series of posters-turn-cooking sheets, making it easy even for the culinary challenged.

Takeaway: The product that knows me best AND gives me more of the things that I want in life – will win the consumer’s heart and wallet.


We likely have all heard that the greatest marketers are storytellers.

Neglected from that statement is what story we are telling. We are not screenwriters, crafting a narrative designed to bring people to one common conclusion. We are architects, designing the circumstances for people to live within and create their own story.

Herschel Supply is the mega global brand that maintains a local feel. They know their brand deeply resonates with their consumer’s passions for design, travel and discovery. You won’t see mass media campaigns from Herschel. Instead, you will see:

 – Product collaborations with like-minded brands

 – A digital content strategy based on the aspiration of being well-travelled, pumping out piece after piece of lust-worthy adventures to inspire their followers

 – The Journal, a collection of stories that enable people’s desire for design and travel, featuring pieces like where to eat, explore and relax in Brooklyn

Takeaway: Rather than ‘market’ to people and tell them our message, we can create the circumstances for them to discover us – selectively identifying many little moments to weave ourselves into everyday life.


We are defined by the sum of our parts.

From digital to retail, customer service to product, each of these are one piece that emulsify into one perception of who we are.

No brand embraces this more than Warby Parker, who delivers a holistic customer experience at every touchpoint. In a session with Tony Robbins, co-founder Neil Blumenthal details the care they take:

 – The product experience is easy and fun – little things like ability to try on digitally or having full-length mirrors in stores.

 – When they say the product will come in five days, it arrives in four.

 – When you call customer service, a real person answers the phone in six seconds.

Takeaway: We cannot think of our brand as just the product or marketing, but the synergy of every single touchpoint, and must ensure all deliver the same experience.


“You have to think of your product and company as a personality, as an actual person with a heartbeat.” Miko Branch, co-founder Miss Jessie’s

If you think about your offering through this lens – as if it was how you would want a loved one to act – you will naturally instill a lot of the Four I’s.

There is no shortcut, and it’s hard work. But the alternative may be one day, not existing at all.

/ David Corelli

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