Marketing to millennials is a hot topic these days. No conference line up is complete without a “how-to” on speaking to this coveted demographic and there’s no shortage of memes and gifs that are telling you you’re doing it wrong.

Trading Words for Symbols

Naturally, all of this millennial madness has me curious about how marketers are reaching millennials through email. So, I decided to do a little personal research by way of my Gmail promotions tab. Now I won’t say if I qualify as a millennial or not (a woman never reveals her age!), but it’s hard not to notice the increase in emojis and hashtags that are popping up in my inbox:

There’s no doubt texting is starting to creep into our subject lines.

While these may grab my attention more than others as I scan through my inbox, do they leave a lasting impression or convince me to open more than others? Personally, no. And from a study conducted by our Data Science Team last year, it wasn’t very successful for our senders either.

They saw average engagement rates of 10.5% for subject lines with a single hashtag, compared to 17.2% for subject lines that do not contain a #hashtag.

Maybe millennials are blind to the hashtags and emojis because they see them all day on their phones?

Perhaps providing a subject line that is out of the ordinary, and not seen everyday is the way to go? Like “The One Key Lie To Tell Your Kid” from my new favorite newsletter from Fatherly. My attention was grabbed, no hashtags/emojis needed.

Blink and You’ll Miss It

Another common thread I keep hearing about millennials is that their attention spans are short. “Make your emails to millennials as short and scannable as possible,” I was told lately. If so, then, why send your email at all? Yes, digestible content is super important. But so is valuable content.

As I scanned through my marketing emails, I noticed how image heavy/content light emails have become lately. Mobile is definitely a factor and I’m all for limiting scroll, but I’m also all about absorbing information. If you provide valuable information to your subscribers, they’ll scroll for it.

Don’t sacrifice value for space.

The key to building a long-term relationship (a scary concept for millennials…or so I’ve heard) with your subscribers is to provide content they enjoy consuming, so much so that they continue to engage with your emails, and maybe even share them with friends.

The key to doing this is picking up on signs from your subscribers—what links are they clicking on, what subject lines make them open, which CTAs entice them to visit your website and take an action? Consume all of this behavior and use it to create even more engaging emails. Test the length of your copy in these emails as well.

Only through testing can you know if this whole millennials don’t pay attention theory is correct and applicable to your email marketing program. But I bet if you prioritize sending content that your subscribers will enjoy, they’ll be willing to spend a little more time with your emails.

So how can you take all of this millennial hearsay and actually make an impact with your email marketing strategy? I’ve shared some thoughts/tips below. And remember, while millennial marketing is all the rage right now, smart email marketing will always be the rage.

Millennial Takeaways:

  • Providing value is always your #1 goal. Don’t skimp on value just to create a shorter email. If you’re not providing value, you shouldn’t be sending your email to begin with.
  • Break the mold. We can all send emails like we send text messages—if you really want to reach new subscribers, do something that sets you apart.
  • Put your subscribers in the driver’s seat. (Millennials are old enough to drive, right?) Ask your subscribers what they want to learn more about or what content they want to see. Everyone, millennial or not, likes to have their opinion heard. Show that you care and allow your subscribers to set their email preferences with you.
  • Try a hashtag/emoji subject line…or not. But do what’s true to your brand and your recipients. Your engagement metrics will tell you everything you need to know about whether your risks are resonating.

For more email marketing tips (with fewer emojis) check out our 2018 A-Z of Email Marketing guide.



Jillian Wohlfarth
As SendGrid's Director of Content, Jillian is responsible for ensuring that SendGrid provides valuable thought leadership content through the blog, whitepapers, webcasts, and more. When not writing and editing, you can find Jillian frequenting Denver restaurants in search of the best queso.