An Inadvertent Lesson in Millennial Marketing by Tim Ferriss

I was listening to the Tim Ferriss Show podcast recently. For those of you who don’t know him, he is a modern day philosopher, lifehacker and author of the ‘4-hour Work Week’ book. I have been listening to his podcast for quite some time now and it hit me that Tim had inadvertently given a great lesson in millennial marketing with his podcast format. Before I go into things I want to put out a disclaimer; this is not an attack on Tim by any means. I think his execution is better than the majority. If you know Tim, you would know he values efficiency over perfection. Still when it comes to millennial marketing specifically, there are some good and bad lessons in his sponsor advertising.

The first thing would be that they are placed at a point in the podcast where it is easy to skip; the beginning. Being a millennial myself, I can tell you that our first instinct is to skip ads as fast as possible and just get to the good stuff. The consistent format of the show makes it very easy to skip ads. I have gotten so good at knowing where to skip ahead that I usually get to the actual start of the episode in one try. Millennials have a strong resentment of ads because the status quo of marketing for many is interruption. Many marketers and brands interrupt without much consideration, thus resentment ensues.

The second thing is time. I may be a millennial but I am also a marketer myself. I want to support anyone that produces good content by going through the motions of consuming the ads that make it free and possible. One of the biggest things that will get in the way of that is time. The ad segment at the beginning of this show is usually a good few minutes! We are in the ‘on-demand’ era now and I don’t know a millennial that is going to deliberately sit through a few minutes of advertising if they have control over the situation. Another reason for millennial resentment of ads and marketers is time. Too many marketers focus on interruption and then have the audacity to expect us to sit through minutes of their ‘push’ material!

  image by avilo

image by avilo

Now I’ve used my friend Tim Ferriss for enough of the bad, so time for some good. What Tim does well is authenticity. Hell, he is being authentic by cramming his show with ads and generating income if you know his books. The authenticity I am referring to though is his choice of advertising and storytelling that goes with it. When you actually listen to his ads, he has chosen his sponsors carefully. You genuinely believe that the sponsors he aligns with are only ones he supports and believes in himself. In defense of the length of the ad segments, he really tries to craft an authentic, personal story that isn’t just shameless interruption advertising.

Lastly, he tries to offer value to his audience with the ads. I can’t speak for all of them (I’m a millennial after all and skip that sh*t more often than not) but most of what I have heard, he tries to include some form of unique discount or offer for his people.


Takeaways for effective millennial marketing


  • Avoid interruption. Instead try to be more native and coalesce with the platform/channel you are communicating on


  • Be inconsistent. Especially if you are more ‘interrupt’ than ‘native’, you are going to have to be inconsistent. If we catch on to your game and know where you are going to pop up, we are going to leapfrog over you


  • Be authentic. Build your messaging around an understanding of the audience and the context of the platform/channel. If you don’t have this info, consult with experts


  • Be considerate with our time. Say more with less. Don’t have the audacity to hold us hostage to your marketing for an extended period of time


  • Offer value. WIIFM (what’s in it for me)! If you are going to take away some of our time at least offer us some value. The more tangible the better but it doesn’t have to be the most direct form of value


Thanks for listening