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Catherine Colbert

Q&A: The Most Coveted Millennial

by Catherine Colbert | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

February 24, 2016 | No Comments »

Despite digitally digesting a new nuance about Millennials every day, how well do you really know the 83-million-strong generation?

Many industries worldwide need this group of consumers and workers to not only stay alive but thrive. Marketers aim to arm themselves with the latest Millennial data from proven experts. Looking to backfill retiring Boomers, corporate recruiters want to know what makes young workers tick.

The stakes are high. Reaching out to the right person for help in developing an ironclad strategy should be a top priority. What’s muddying the waters is that so many self-proclaimed Millennial experts have emerged online during the past few years. Honestly, it’s difficult to determine the depth of anyone’s knowledge of this multifaceted and recession-shocked generation.

Not many people know Millennials, or multiple generations for that matter, more than Ann Fishman. Millennial women, one of her areas of expertise and the topic of her most recent book, are sought after by companies worldwide for their savvy in technology, fashion, and social media, and their finesse in spending strategically.

Know Your Expert

For Fishman, a seasoned generational marketer, getting to know Millennials has taken some time. The generation’s behavior wasn’t so easy to predict in the beginning.

Ann Fishman, author of Marketing to the Millennial Woman

The often-elusive generation — the first to come of age in the new millennium and the largest cohort in history — had companies throwing up their hands in frustration for years. They were understandably flustered. Marketers have grown accustomed to successfully attracting, securing, and profiting from the idealistic Boomer and independent Gen Xer. Company recruiters have relied on certain job perks to attract top talent that don’t work as well now to serve the Millennial lifestyle.

When Millennials emerged and began to show their colors, they did not fit the established mold. As a result, efforts to market to them in the beginning seemed off-putting and downright desperate.

A more grown-up Millennial is now taking shape. And the art of successfully serving these young adults is morphing.

Opportunities Abound

No matter what they’re selling, top marketers know they need Millennial buy-in to boost their businesses and create buzz around their brands. Entire industries, particularly the trades, are aggressively setting up programs to attract young adults out of high school to become plumbers, electricians, and other potentially high-paid trade jobs in the booming construction industry.

The payoff is big. Millennials represent more than a quarter of the nation’s population, according to the US Census Bureau, casting a shadow on the 75.4 million Boomers — the generation that has steered business decisions for decades.

Learning how to serve this confident and connected generation has allowed companies that have catered to and profited from Boomers to successfully transition to Millennial-focused enterprises. These conscientious companies are often rewarded for their efforts. Coveted by businesses for their size and spending power during their peak earning years, Millennials have created and doomed certain industries.

Industry Disruptors

The successes of Amazon.com, Netflix, and Facebook can be attributed to Millennial adoption. Other companies and industries are prime for disruption due to innovation inspired by how these young adults live and work. Longtime tried-and-true business models, such as car dealerships, residential real estate brokerages, and taxicab operations, could dissolve at the hands of this new generation.

The fate of these traditional models will be determined by Millennial consumers and business people. These trailblazers see a better way to do business and are already pushing in a new direction. Tesla, Opendoor, and Uber are just a few examples of companies elbowing their way into established industries to challenge others to consider alternatives.

It’s a time of transition in many industries. Some companies are facing the daunting task of serving Millennials or die trying.

According to Fishman, they may miss the mark entirely if they don’t listen to and focus on not only Millennials but, interestingly, the cohort’s better half.

Why Women?

What I learned from perusing Fishman’s Marketing to the Millennial Woman surprised me. She digs deepest where others haven’t ventured.

The generational marketing expert has been researching this cohort and others for so long that she can spot them anywhere, particularly Millennial females.

“If you walk into Starbucks and see two young women sitting together, drinking coffee, and texting for 20 minutes, they’re Millennials,” she asserts. “If you see 3-plus young women shopping together, they’re Millennials. If you see young women dressed inappropriately at work, they’re Millennials. If you hear young women using inappropriate language, yet not realizing it, they’re Millennials.”

Understanding Millennial women gives companies, industries, and employers an added advantage. Millennial women are more educated than their male counterparts, and they’re more concerned with career success than Millennial men. As women, they also make more of the household spending decisions.

Expert Advice

Fishman has become attuned to Millennials through decades of researching generations. She is the founder and president of Generational Targeted Marketing, LLC, a specialized marketing firm that provides insight into preferences, trends, and the buying habits of each of America’s six generations. In fact, her expertise reaches back to pre-Millennial days.

I was fortunate to spend some time with Fishman recently to dig deeper into the mindset and motivations of Millennial women and to learn more about her work. In this Bizmology blog post and two others, I’ve asked her to share more of what she has discovered in her research, specifically about Millennial women as CONSUMERS and as EMPLOYEES.


How did you get started in generational marketing? What’s your background?
As a stay-at-home mother, I had lots of time on my hands, so I decided to take some courses at a local university. This time around (I already had a B.A. from Newcomb College [Tulane] and had taken additional classes at Harvard), I noticed, in most of my classes, I was the only older student. When I finished, the classes were about a quarter full of students like me.

I’m an Arkansan by birth, and I decided to contact (then) Governor Bill Clinton and Senator David Pryor, who at the time was chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, for a fellowship to study lifelong learning. Senator Pryor liked the idea, and I was invited to Washington to work on specific research projects, which resulted in two white papers on lifelong learning for an aging society, a national roundtable on intergenerational mentoring, and federal legislation to place qualified adults into public schools as mentors.

When I left government service, I realized that businesses that understood generational characteristics would be able to better manage a workforce and better able to develop generationally targeted products and services. So I started my company Generational Targeted Marketing based on these beliefs.

When did you realize that your Millennial research was ready to share with others in the form of this book?
People seemed puzzled about the Millennial generation, and since I had been studying generations and applying my research and experiences with clients for more than 20 years, the time was ripe to share this information.

What’s the benefit of sharing this information with others?
There are many, including sharing stories about other businesses that have stumbled or succeeded in their marketing efforts or interactions they have had with millennials — good and bad.

Anyone who reads Marketing to the Millennial Woman will begin to understand this baffling generation by learning from the marketing successes of others.

What did you find most rewarding about studying generations?
Helping clients reach their markets and achieve their goals.

Who is the book’s intended target audience?
The target audience of recently published Marketing to the Millennial Woman (available on Amazon.com) is the business community, nonprofits, and government agencies.

What types of companies have requested your insight?
Insurance companies, financial companies, fashion companies, cable companies, travel and entertainment companies, all companies that have to do with housing in any way, manufacturers, politicians, nonprofits, the intelligence community, and other government agencies.


For more than a decade, Ann Fishman has been a leading expert in the emerging field of generational trends, which identifies and analyzes the distinct experiences that indelibly mark each of America’s six generations. These historical experiences create unique generational characteristics that in turn determine each generation’s values, attitudes, lifestyles, and preferred methods of communication. Beyond its corporate applications, such as product development, marketing, and employee training, generational analysis is increasingly recognized as critical for those in government to better understand and connect with people from various generations.

As a recipient of four research fellowships awarded her by the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, she created the National Mentor Corps (federal legislation to place trained elders in public schools) and a national workshop on intergenerational issues, and authored and edited Lifelong Learning for an Aging Society (U.S. Senate information paper) and Intergenerational Mentoring (U.S. Senate information paper). She also has analyzed complex demographical data, translated it into generational characteristics to recognize trends and improve intergenerational communication, and taught generational marketing at NYU. Some of her clients include Time Warner Cable, the U.S. Senate, National Security Agency, Allstate Financial, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Volvo Car Corporation, National Geographic Society, the State of Nevada, Tulane University, W by Worth, and Reader’s Digest.

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