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Marketing to Millennials in Automotive

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the Pew Research Center, millennials are defined as those born between the years of 1981 and 1997. That would make those between the ages of 21 and 38 millennials (up to this point in 2019), for those of you looking around the office wondering if a certain person falls into the millennial category. This generation has definitely received a fair share of attention lately, and a large volume of criticism. I’m not going to get into that debate, or take a side.

My thinking on this issue is simple, “stop labeling millennials, and start marketing to them”. No matter what your feelings are about the millennial generation, they now have strong purchasing power, and it’s only going to get stronger. Figuring out how to connect and build loyalty with this group of consumers is now more important than ever for automotive brands and dealerships. Many millennials are just starting to purchase their first car without help from their parents or guardians, and what they experience in their research and buying process could very well stick with them the rest of their lives. So, instead of complaining about their work-ethic or their lack of respect for elders, start gaining their trust and loyalty.

Below is the blueprint, using the Five Ws (who, what, where, when & why), to successfully reach millennials where and when they shop for cars, using messaging that resonates with them:


It’s important for all auto manufacturers, and dealers of all brands, to have a plan for marketing to millennials, and employ the right tactics to do so. That being said, while I urge all brands to pursue this group of consumers, there are some brands that currently have a higher potential for building that long-term loyalty with millennials. These brands, which are listed below, have a higher potential because of two main factors. First, they are building products that millennials want and can afford, and secondly, they have already invested in a strong millennial marketing strategy years before other brands did.

According to a study from Jumpstart Automotive Group, millennials show high interest in the following brands:

  • Ford
  • Toyota
  • Honda

A recent study from CarGurus showed similar findings, as they included the Ford Escape, Toyota Prius and Honda Fit on their list of the 10 Best Rides for College Graduates.


  • Hit them with messaging centered around interior technology/connectivity, fuel efficiency & cost of ownership, as these are the topics that resonate with millennials (Jumpstart Automotive Shopper Study)
  • Social Media is the obvious medium to use, but Display advertising outside of social should be a big portion of your strategy, as this gives the brand an awareness play for an audience that may be new to your brand
  • Make sure you incorporate video/pre-roll, as viewing videos is an action millennial auto shoppers perform heavily on their mobile devices

Not only is this point important in the USA, but it’s extremely important when marketing to millennials in Brazil, as more than half of the Brazilian population is under the age of 35.

  • The average video viewer in Brazil spends over 700 minutes per month watching online video, far more than any other Latin American country
  • Brazilians watch approximately 5.9 videos per online visit, according to a study done by comScore


Focus your ad spend on the mobile space

  • 64% of millennials in the U.S. shop for a car on their smartphone while on a dealer lot
  • In the U.S. more millennials own smartphones than they do desk/laptop computers, 80% desk/laptop and 89% smartphone (Jumpstart Automotive Shopper Study)


Don’t forget about the website experience on a mobile device. Many companies found huge success from implementing a mobile optimized responsive web-platform. For example, Search Optics conducted a study to understand the impact that their responsive web-platform had on clients’ websites, and found the following:

  • 101% increase in Organic Mobile Traffic
  • 21% improvement in Organic Mobile Bounce Rate
  • 48% increase in Average Mobile Session Duration

Mobile is just as important in other parts of the world, such as the U.K. and Australia, as it is in the U.S.

A study by Inmobi found some interesting insights about U.K. millennials:

  • 95% of U.K. millennials would use their mobile phone to help them shop for a car
  • Nearly half of U.K. millennials would use a mobile device to locate a nearby dealer

A study by Google found some interesting insights about Australian millennials and car shoppers:

  • 77% of Australian millennials use their smartphones to compare products, which is extremely important in a highly competitive industry such as automotive
  • 50% of Australian car buyers do research on their smartphones while at a car dealership


  • Heavy-up your mobile ad spend on the weekends, as smartphone traffic from auto shoppers (most notably millennials) spikes on the weekends
  • Desk/laptop traffic spikes on Mondays and Tuesdays, so spend more of your desk/laptop digital budgets early in the week


As I briefly mentioned earlier, millennials have huge and growing buying power:

  • The millennial generation spent approximately $32 Billion on auto purchases in 2014 (
  • According to, millennials had an estimated buying power of $200 Billion across the economy as a whole in 2017

Millennials would rather buy a car over leasing one, and at the same time would rather rent a house than buy one (

If you are a marketer in the automotive industry, use the above tactics to reach millennials. I guarantee you will find success.

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Michael Thomas, Director of Analytics

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