Above are a few of the distressed statement I’ve heard from clients imploring my Gen Y whispering aptitudes to save their dying brands.
What’s the solution?
It’s more than your “cool” product offerings. It’s more than the catch phrase buried within Annual Report. It’s WAY more than the Cost of Quality Model they drilled into your head in B-school.
Millennial consumers are immune to traditional advertisement placement [Adweek], and could care less about your product’s “sex appeal” [Fortune]. Instead, they support brands that reflect their philanthropic principals, are characterized by accountable transparency, and committed to a relationship with their patrons.
Millennials make purchasing decisions that matter. After helping dozens of “not so millennial friendly” brands channel their inner Gen Y, here are a few tips I’ve gleaned for turning old school brands into millennial favs:
Transparency Tops the List
Millennials don’t trust ads, the G-man, or big corporations; instead, blogs and social media are reported to be this generation’s top sources of information pools [Fortune]. After reaping the direct effects of the 9/11 economic meltdown, millennials don’t trust anyone (or any brand) that barks like 1990’s. Millennial consumers believe organizational transparency is the best way to prevent WorldCom II or another Fannie Mae/Mac induced mortgage bubble bust.
Want to engage millennials? Lose the sales pitch and be TRANSPARENT! What does brand “transparency” mean? Be real, be honest, be forthcoming, be accountable. Millennial consumers can sniff out authenticity (or lack of) like a bloodhound. Today’s consumers will only patronize brand they can trust, and transparency builds trust.
Social Good is Good Business
Corporate social responsibility is nothing new, but millennial consumers are demanding its adoption in new ways. Generations past relied on the non-profit sector to facilitate majority of philanthropic efforts, with many public traded companies developing charitable sectors within their organization. Generation Y, aka Generation “Give Back”, expects philanthropic principals to be evident in brands of all developmental stages and industries. Millennial consumers want every purchase they make to have a direct impact on improving our world—not just an annual donation, or weekend relief fundraiser.
Millennials believe they make the world better place—with every purchase they make. More than 85% of millennials correlate their purchasing decisions and willingness to recommend a brand to the social good efforts a company is making [Millennial Momentum]. Everything millennials do has purpose, focused on impacting the future in positive ways. From paying a premium for organic food (long term health) to financing millions of startups via crowdfund campaigns (improved economic future), millennials believe they can make the world better, and expect the brands they patronize to commit to the same philanthropic pledge.
Millennials want a RELATIONSHIP with the brands they patronize. They want to know the people behind the logo, the story behind the company, the passion behind the products. Millennials think your board member power portrait is ridiculous (and usually disproportionately consisting of late 50’s Caucasian males), and don’t give a hoot about your company’s “industry leader” status. Millennials want to know the entire community –not just the CEO—behind the brand. They want to know their passions, their backgrounds, and their story.
Great news! Millennials created a phenomenal platform in which brand-consumer relationships can be facilitated –social media. If your company isn’t maximizing its social media presence among millennial consumers, consider your brand’s voluntary acceptance of a near and certain demise. I’m not talking a semi-active Facebook page, used to showcase your company’s 2-for-1 specials; I mean multiple, ACTIVE social media accounts focused on ENGAGING your target market. Engagement is a two way street – supplying shareable content and encouraging consistent conversation.
Like it or not, millennials are the future.
With more than fifty percent of the world’s population currently made up of people 30 years old or younger, millennials are now the largest generation on the planet [U.S. Census Bureau].
Older generations may view Gen Y’s obsession with making the world a better place unrealistic, and roll their eyes at millennial’s expectation of cultivating a relationship with their brands. Regardless of your personal opinions and preferences on characteristics of the millennial consumer, adoption of the three strategies discussed above are necessary for your company to survive into the next decade. As the Baby Boomers demonstrated, the larger the generation, the greater the influence over cultural norms, consumer expectations, and purchasing behavior.
Acknowledge generational differences, recognize millennial consumers’ unique set of needs, and prioritize developing your company’s Gen Y personality to ensure sustainable success into the Connected Age.
About the Author:
Hannah Becker is a millennial author, entrepreneur, and marketing consultant. She currently helps brands increase millennial market share through digital strategy and public relations. Follow Hannah on Twitter@MotivatedGenY