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Marketing to Millennials

Teens are historically difficult to reach, but small businesses are finding some success online through Facebook and "preward" gift cards
Mkt Millennials
Getty Images/Jay Moorthy

Ask Dan McDonald about millennials—those elusive 12- to 26-year-olds raised among text messages and Twitter—and he'll chuckle emphatically. "They're the perfect customers," says McDonald, 51, who owns seven Jersey Mike's sandwich shop franchises in Nashville. "They travel in packs, they eat like fiends, and they have tons of disposable income."

Indeed, America's 80 million millennials (and their folks) shell out roughly $200 billion annually, according to Chicago-based investment firm William Blair & Co.. Yet they're tough to reach through traditional marketing: Despite the prominence of Jersey Mike's billboards, flyers, radio spots, and newspaper ads, McDonald says he struggles to attract teens and 20-somethings.