Millennial Meltdown: How to Sell To the Young Generation

HULETT, Wyoming — “Attendance is down. These millennials, the younger generation … they don’t care about seeing the country.”

Attendance, he means … at Sturgis. The annual South Dakota motorcycle rally has been a Mecca for bikers for decades. The rally happens every year in August, and although festivities don’t officially begin until next week, the talk here in Hulett—a little over an hour’s ride to Sturgis through the Black Hills— is that the rally has a problem.

It’s a problem that tackle stores around the country, and the fishing industry as an entity, is trying to solve: How do you attract millennials?

Pokemon GO is not the answer. It’s about lifestyle.

The bikers here in a roadside Wyoming cafe, I think, are only partially correct. Millennials do care about seeing the country, but they probably don’t care about driving thousands of miles to see bands they don’t relate to (Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, Ratt). And they might not be hyped to “throw down” with thousands of leather clad doctors and lawyers who could be their parents.

The average age of California motorcycle riders in 1990 was 33. According to the L.A. Times, in 2012 that average age had increased to 45. Ring a bell? The biking industry — like fishing — has a generation gap.


Make no mistake, the gap is real. The American Sportfishing Association’s R3 campaign has about two years left to reach its goal of adding 14 million anglers in three years. The Rs stand for Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation — you can bet they’re geared at young anglers.

So how do you help out? And why should you?

First, there’s money in it for you. You already know this. Attracting young customers is key to your own future. Millennials, by the way, have grown up a bit since the term was first coined roughly ten years ago. They’re the fastest growing segment of buyers in the country, and they are increasingly earning disposable income.

Second, they’re easy to sell to.


Yeah. They are. But you have to change your approach.

Millennials are price conscious and tech savvy, but they’re also suckers for lifestyle products. There’s a reason brands that focus on lifestyle marketing — companies like Costa and YETI — are dominating their segments.

But I don’t make products, I sell them.

That’s right. You do. And you should be telling people about all of the cool, hip lifestyle products that your store carries. You should also invest in a real website. (Just trust me.)

You should also be speaking to younger customers in their own language. Post videos to your Facebook page. Update your blog at least once a week. Wear a fake mustache….

Hunt for new customers on Instagram. But don’t just be a brand, be real. Be you. Millennial marketing works. You just have to speak their language. Here’s a short list of ridiculous brands I’ve followed or purchased something from in the past six months based solely on Instagram:

  • AER Video — A European startup that will apparently make wings for your GoPro. Their product hasn’t even launched yet, but I’ve already signed up for a newsletter and added them on Snapchat because of an Instagram post.
  • Arc-Iris Eyewear — A Montana-based maker of wooden sunglasses. I actually ordered a pair after they connected via Instagram and sent me a coupon code.
  • Charge Cords — A California-based maker of allegedly (but not actually) durable charge cables for iPhones. Mine broke within three months, but dang if it doesn’t look good. I’ll probably get another.

What do these brands have in common? One, they all connected with me via Instagram. Two, they all sell lifestyle products, just like you. I know tackle stores, and I know that you have items on your shelves that are way more ridiculous than wooden sunglasses. (They aren’t supposed to get wet!) Maybe it’s time to change your message and start selling them.

Millennials will buy. Whether you’re selling Sturgis or sportfishing or hand-crafted bream bobbers, you just have to speak their language.