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Everything I Needed to Know About Marketing to Millennials I Learned from the Selfie

Kelly Rabinowitz By Kelly Rabinowitz

As a member of Generation X, I find selfies to be, well, almost comical. It’s photography taken by oneself, featuring oneself, doing nothing other than being oneself.

Where are these people’s friends? Are they too shy, or too terrified of human interaction to ask someone to take a picture of them? Do they really think their rear ends look that great? And who wants to see that?

Some have started calling Millennials “the selfie generation.” But what does the selfie really tell us marketers about the Millennial generation?

A lot, I think. Selfies reveal how Millennials communicate—how they express themselves and how they prefer to receive information. As marketers, knowing how Millennials communicate is key to reaching them and to helping them express themselves through our brands.

Here’s how the selfie gives us insight into the Millennial psyche… 


Sometimes it seems like every single situation, no matter how mundane, is “selfie-worthy” to a Millennial. New shirt? Selfie! Arrived at the office on time? Selfie! Just feeling good today? Selfie!

Why the “selfish” selfies? This generation is beyond digital native – they are the cusp of mobile natives. They barely remember a world that wasn’t connected on the go via mobile devices.

Every aspect of their lives is based on connectivity. So why wouldn’t the ability to share every moment of their lives on demand be the norm? It’s how they learn about new restaurants and products, how they complain to their friends about their latest failed relationship, and even how they meet their future failed relationship partner.

LESSON LEARNED: Connectedness is an integrated aspect of Millennials’ lives. Mobile can’t be an afterthought; it has to be the first thought.


Millennials aren’t just sharing their everyday stories on social media. They’re also using all kinds of tools to enhance their stories.

It might be a quirky or fancy photo filter. Perhaps it’s a unique selfie pose they’re introducing. They might even resort to hashtagging the hashtag out of their selfies. Ouch.

Millennials are driven to be “unique” when they express themselves. Their social media photos are as much an expression of themselves as the clothing they wear, the music they listen to, and the people they hang out with.

LESSON LEARNED: If you want to resonate with Millennials, give them ample opportunity to express themselves. Make sure customer service listens to their unique expressions, and give them opportunities to customize your products.


Did you see this guy? He took a selfie from the top of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. It’s one of many “risk-taking” selfies that kids are doing these days.

Millennials’ lives are often rooted in visual context. They’ve grown up in a world with easy access to photography (Instagram) and video (YouTube). They even graduate high school with the ability to create digital slideshows, build
websites, and edit videos. They know what impact visual can have. And they rely on it in the stories they share.

LESSON LEARNED: Let’s get visual. Visual. Let’s get visual… (#ThrowbackThursday). You don’t have to rely on copy to tell your story. Visual context can’t be overstated with Millennials. They get it. Powerful image or video will go much farther than a block of copy.

Millennials’ wants and needs aren’t so different from anyone else’s. They’re just children of a different era of technology and connectedness. So they’re communicating with each other, and the brands they love, differently. Selfie-shly.