Millennials, the newest generation of influential consumers (also known as Generation Y or Gen Y), spend more than $600 billion dollars annually with spending power expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020, (or 30% of US sales) according to Accenture 2013 research.
While these statistics might sound like ‘gold bullion’ for many brands, in our experience often smaller companies and organisations struggle to develop their brand strategy in a way that relates relevantly to this fast changing group of buyers.
Millennial consumers are a very fluid constantly moving target with multiple devices overflowing with content clamouring for their attention 24/7. However don’t be too daunted, once you really understand this discerning customer properly and tailor your brand to really meet their needs, you can, like many others tap into this incredibly lucrative market.
Defining the Millennial Customer
A Millennial is generally defined as someone who was born between the years of 1980 and 2000, according to multiple online sources, including an article, “Oh, to Be Young, Millennial, and So Wanted by Marketers,” by Hilary Stout for The New York Times.
Millennials, on average, have around seven electronic devices that have the ability to access social networking, the internet and even television. While there are exceptions to this statistic, as there are in any demographic, 55 percent of these Millennials are using their devices to connect to videos several times a day, where a large majority of brand engagement takes place. Six out of ten Millennials feel losing their car would have a less negative impact on their lives than losing their phone or computer.
Due to the fact that almost half (45 percent) of Millennials admit that brands are a key part to their lives, recognized brand names are very important to this specific consumer when deciding to purchase something. They are a multi-device connected group and consequently research their brands thoroughly on multiple fronts before deciding to make a purchase. Their decision-making processes are influenced by some very sophisticated criteria coupled with social proof from the opinions of their peers online.
Goldman Sachs clearly explains what a Millennial consumer is and how this demographic can potentially change the economy, in a video published on YouTube in May of 2015: “Macroeconomic Insights—Millennials: Changing Consumer Behaviour.”
6 Key Brand Attributes Important to the Millennial Customer
1. High Quality Products and Services
The number one, most important characteristic that a Millennial looks for in a product is quality. If a product or service does not seem worth the time or the money to the Millennial, they’re unlikely to invest in it. This consumer will buy high quality premium brands but only once they’ve thoroughly validated its credentials.
2. The Power of Recommendation
Word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools on or offline. If a Millennial is happy with a product or service they’ve used, and the brand has consistently delivered a great customer experience, they’ll share this positively on a global scale. Fifty three percent interact with brands online they care about and tell others.
Conversely if a brand has let them down or failed to meet its brand promise they’ll also articulate their discontent verbosely. Thanks to social platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Millennials are constantly sharing their latest purchase with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of followers. This is especially the case if a Millennial owns something that is trending. These posts do not go to waste, either.
Dan Schawbel in his Forbes article states: “33 percent of millennials rely mostly on blogs before they make a purchase… [they] look to social media for an authentic look at what’s going on… especially content written by their peers whom they trust.”
3. Personalization, Partnerships and Co-Creators
Millennial consumers are vocal and speak their minds freely about products or services online. If brand owners monitor and track this online traffic it can provide them with invaluable insights and data enabling them to quickly address any issues and use the information garnered to inform new product development solutions specifically tailored to meet the needs of this very influential group.
Individuality matters to Millennials and they like to express themselves through personal style clothing. In fact 40% have gone beyond clothing to express their individuality with tattoos.
Brands offering customization and bespoke individualization are ahead of the game already. This will become an increasingly important trend for this audience, as evidenced by the success of Chipotle.
Millennials want to be treated like partners, not just purchasers, that’s why brands like Pinterest and Etsy have been so successful. 60% believe organizations should offer more ways for customers to share opinions and 40% want to co-create with brands. This provides brands, products of services, with incredible opportunities to engage this willing group and tap into them for their creativity.
4. Social Responsibility
Even with high quality products, great customer experience, good ratings and convenience, brands still need to offer more to their Millennial buyer. For this particular type of consumer, it is very important that they feel like they are making a difference and they will actively purchase brands which are seen to be ‘giving back to the community’ for the greater good in some way.
Six out of ten millennials feel personally responsible for making a difference, and because of this, an incredible 90 percent of these consumers actively purchase brands associated with a cause. More than half of the Millennial consumers will abandon a brand if they disagree with the company’s ethics.
By having the full-history of any brand available at their fingertips, Millennials collectively care about how even the smallest of their purchases can affect those across the globe. They are frustrated with statutory entities and Government and want to solve social problems through entrepreneurial solutions.
5. Life is an Adventure
Many Millennials feel that it is important to experience new things on a regular basis, as 70 percent want to travel to all seven continents, 75 percent enjoy food from cultures that are not their own and Millennials are two and a half times more likely to adapt to new technologies than older generations.
Often, this wanderlust spirit inspires Millennials to look for excitement in their everyday lives, which is why 60 percent of this generation considers themselves entrepreneurs and optimistic, creative thinkers.
This attitude is what pushes Millennials to have the desire to be not only a patron, but also a part of the brand that they are supporting. Affinity groups form within the Millennial culture, as it is a large, broad generation. Those with similar interests, tastes, achievements and circumstances often come together in order to work towards a common goal, which is what the Millennial consumer likes to see in their brand, as well.
6. Making an Important Statement
In this reenergized push for equality, inclusivity and diversity, Millennials appreciate a brand that is not afraid to make a statement against discrimination. Millennials will actively support brands that authentically make equality, inclusivity and diversity part of their brand culture.
This video, “Millennials On: What Cause Would You Dedicate Your Life To?” produced by 20 to 30 demonstrates the wide spectrum of causes that the millennial generation cares about, which coincides with social responsibility, sharing similar interests and making an important statement.
Brands Who Have Done It Right
There are many examples of brands, small and large, that have successfully made all these key Millennial attributes core to their brand culture. Starbucks is a great case in point. In this video, “Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on Social Responsbility,” genConnect lets Schultz explain how Starbucks remains socially responsible through success.
Apple is brand that has earned the loyalty of their Millennial consumers not only for their great product quality but also for their support of (PRODUCT)RED, which supports the fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and their corporate sociality responsibility programmes relating to the environment, education, accessibility and inclusion and diversity.
A brand does not need to be a global Goliath either to be an attractive and successful brand targeting Millennials. Take the Lokai brand, for example. They sell one bracelet that contains water from Mt. Everest and soil from the Dead Sea to represent the extreme highs and lows in life, to remind the wearer to live a balanced life.
Millennials love the brand story, sentiment and authenticity of the bracelet as evidenced by the almost one million followers it has on Instagram alone. The brand’s website also demonstrates its CSR credentials too in that they donate ten percent of net profits to their charity partners, thus encouraging Millennial consumers to purchase their brand on multiple levels.
Image via www.mylokai.com
Millennials Advocate for Their Favourite Brands
When a Millennial consumer loves a brand, their loyalty is clearly evident. They are great brand champions actively engaged on their multiple social platforms.
A good example of this is when both the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One were released at the same time. Millennial consumers who are also “gamers” had already decided, long before the release of the consoles, which one they would be purchasing because they were loyal to either Sony or Microsoft’s brand.
Debates broke out across the internet over the PS4 versus the Xbox One because the consumers were so loyal to their respective brands. The day the consoles were released, each company sold an outstanding number of units, thus causing Millennial gamers to flood social media with photos and posts about their latest purchase, proud to be a part of a group of people with similar interests.
Brand Loyalty with Millennials
I think once you’ve reflected on some of these key brand attributes mentioned you’ll agree Millennial consumers have such a formidable, and largely growing buying power, that it’s critical to integrate all the elements mentioned, amongst others, if your brand wants to harness the dollars/euros/pounds of this lucrative audience. Take the time to really research and understand your Millennial customers both in terms of their needs, challenges, loves, hates and aspirations.
3 Actionable Tips for Your Millennial Brand Strategy
Consider using some of these tips to integrate into your Millennial brand strategy:
1. Develop really strong buyer personas for each of your different Millennial customer types and their relevant affinity groups. You need to know your audience intimately if you want to tailor your brand for success.The outputs from this work will then provide the much-needed direction for developing your brand profile, using a system like the Personality Profile Performer™. Collectively the outputs from both of these will then provide the direction for the development of your brand strategy, brand collateral design briefs, integrated marketing strategy and so forth.
2. Tailor regular communications with your Millennial customers using the platforms most preferred by them for your brand. For example they like regular email provided it includes really high quality, useful information, which is individualized to their specific needs. Remember even if they don’t immediately buy from you their opinion counts amongst their peers, family and friends.
3. Develop opportunities for collaborative input from your Millennial customers. They want to be involved and a brand strategy developed to include their co-creator spirit provides brands with incredible opportunities to develop unique solutions, be they products or services, which their audience really wants. You might never find out or come up with these NPD ideas unless you include their early input. Make sure you test your prototypes, product or service, with Millennials too.
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So what do you think?
• Does your brand personality and profile appeal to what is most important to the Millennial consumer?
• What aspects of your brand strategy can you improve on to attract more loyal Millennial customers?
• Can you re-evaluate your brand using a brand audit and consider how best to contribute to the causes that are most important to the Millennial customers?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.