5 Tips for Connecting with Millennial Men

by Robin Hafitz, Founder/CEO, Published on Quirks

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Major news outlets have already dubbed 2018 “the year of women.” The #MeToo movement continues to impact culture and record-breaking numbers of women are running for office (EMILY’s List notes that 40 times as many women have come forward this year to run or work on political campaigns than in the 2016 political cycle). There are numerous signs of the power of sisterhood rising – at least for the moment. 

It’s no wonder a lot of attention is given to Millennial women. They’ve worked hard to step to the front of the class in this generation. Pew Research Center reports that in 2016, 46 percent of Millennial women ages 25-to-29 had completed a bachelor’s degree or more – up 10 points relative to Gen X women and seven points higher than Millennial men of the same age. Women have outpaced men on this score for decades but among Millennials the female advantage has grown and Millennial women have made more progress when it comes to careers. A pay gap still favors men but male wages have tended to be stagnant or slip while women’s have grown, narrowing the male advantage from more than a third in 1980 to less than 20 percent now. 

There is a need for marketers promoting everything from hardware to baby food to look beyond the female market and stay in touch with Millennial men. In 2018, it’s still important to ask, “How do we reach the guys?” 

In this article I’ll share five tips for brands looking to research and connect with Millennial men.

1. Pay attention to them. Women’s progress doesn’t mean men are out of the picture. Reaching out to men is still key when researching categories like finance and increasingly important to categories such as food and parenting, as men often do a significant share of the shopping. In our qualitative research we hear Millennial women speak of being taught they could do anything men could do – and better. Millennial men say they learned that their female classmates were at minimum their equals. They came of age with movies like Juno and Knocked Up showing empowered women and less aggressive guys. Interestingly, many Millennial men are consummate communicators, willing to listen to the strong women in their lives but also wanting to be heard.

And this carries over to brands. OMS Youth IQ research shows that 74 percent of Millennial men like brands that “value my opinion.” They know more of the focus is on women lately but welcome the opportunity to share their own perspective. Listen to them and turn to marketing research to allow them to provide feedback. 

In qualitative research, forget the stereotype that male groups will tend to be monosyllabic and terse. Millennial guys are much more willing to talk than older male respondents – whether in live groups, digital settings or chat rooms – as long as they know that it’s safe to share their thoughts. Turn the spotlight on the guys and be willing to listen.

2. Realize that they aren’t anti-woman or looking for a boys’ club. Media attention on “incels” aside, the truth is most Millennial men are rooting for their female peers, sisters and lovers. Seven in 10 Millennial guys are glad the #MeToo movement is allowing victims “to come out of the darkness” and that abusers will no longer “use their power to hurt people” (vs. eight in 10 Millennial women). Millennial dads are even more likely to feel feminism is important than other Millennial men, perhaps because they are raising daughters. 

Interestingly, the Millennial generation is unique in terms of how aligned males and females tend to be around many attitudes. Millennial men – more than the generations before them or the Gen Z cohort coming after them – are unafraid of being sensitive and idealistic. In the OMS Youth IQ survey, 68 percent feel “there’s nothing wrong with” acting sensitive. Eight in 10 Millennial men – a higher rate than Millennial women – say they “believe in true love.” Similarly to Millennial women, 71 percent feel it’s important to express their individuality, while less than half think it’s important to fit in. From social awareness to spirituality and food to family, Millennial men and women share many opinions and values. Both are likely to be comfortable with emotion, socially conscious and eager to express and pursue their passions. 

3. Millennial men are … Millennials. Millennials differ from Boomers and Gen Xers regardless of gender. Early tech adoption, diversity, idealism, individualism, a self-definition based as much on passions as on paycheck – in these ways, Millennial men act like Millennials. Keep in mind that simple stereotypes rarely capture the whole picture. Millennials are tech obsessed but they are also ambivalent about technology. Eighty-one percent of Millennial men say they are very careful about what they post on social media (a bit lower than Millennial women), while 75 percent think it’s important to sometimes disconnect from tech (a bit higher than women). And while younger consumers relate to celebrities in their cohort, Millennial men connect with personalities more based on values than on age. Anthony Bourdain, though older, was an idol, a person defined by passion. 

4. Go where they’re having fun. Millennial guys are having kids and taking life seriously. A study by Wells Fargo shows that 61 percent of Millennial men are saving for retirement (vs. 50 percent of Millennial women). But Millennial guys still want to have fun – 83 percent think it’s important to take breaks from the serious side of life (as do 91 percent of Millennial women). 

Sports, gaming and humorous, not-necessarily-politically-correct video and TV content are places to find them. In these entertainment choices, Millennial men are quite different than women. Two-thirds of Millennial males think there’s too much “political correctness” these days and they appreciate humor that shares this perspective. They are more into music, sports and YouTube than Millennial women – and way more into e-sports. Two-thirds (67 percent) are extremely/very into video games, compared to 27 percent of Millennial women. Our qualitative research suggests Millennial dads are enjoying passing the gaming love to the next generation so don’t expect this connection point to fade.

5. Millennial men may be parents (or living with their parents). Life stage is at least as important as generational definition in reaching this cohort. Realize that Millennials may be living with their parents – and/or they may be parents. Forty-three percent of Millennials have married (according to Pew), and Millennials account for the vast majority of births in America. The average new father is a 31-year-old Millennial. While Millennials are famously delaying marriage and parenting longer than previous generations, over half (60 percent) say that being a parent at some point is important to their identity. And dads are more involved in household choices from groceries and baby care to what clothes their kids will wear than ever before. Researchers looking to reach young families can’t just focus on moms. 

In surveys, recognize that both parents in a Millennial-led household may identify themselves as primary shoppers. Don’t be surprised to find that fathers have strong opinions about food ingredients. Rethink lines of questioning to capture the influence young dads have on their household’s purchase decisions.

Avoiding stereotypes

Businesses and marketers that can’t depend on a solely female audience need to ask, “What about the guys?” Connecting with Millennial men means creating opportunities to listen to them, avoiding stereotyping and connecting with their individuality and passion. Thank them for feedback and congratulate them on achieving their dreams – of high finance, high game scores or ample dad time.