Some may find it difficult, and even arbitrary, to associate a series of characteristics or behaviours to an entire generation. However, there is no question that those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s (also known as Millennials) have an enhanced understanding of communications, media and digital technologies.
Research shows they also tend to be more socially liberal, less religious and more concerned with social issues than previous generations. They want to know that the companies they support are doing their part to make the world a better place.
When it comes to brands, Millennials are much more likely to be attracted to purpose-driven companies linked to social causes. But they also have a strong aversion to inauthenticity, and will be hyper-critical of brands that appear to be hoodwinking them. This means honesty is critical – even when it means sharing a misstep or delay in achieving a goal.
What Millennials Want from a Brand
Millennials want to be respected for their intelligence and discernment. They want to be heard by the companies they support, and expect two-way, unfiltered dialogue. Because they’re so much more at ease with sharing via social media, they aren’t shy about telling others about their experiences.
Millennials also prefer to do business with corporations and brands that have pro-social messages, sustainable manufacturing methods and ethical business standards. And when brands aren’t meeting these expectations, Millennials are sharing their negative experiences with their broad and well-connected social networks. Sarah Landrun, a contributor to Forbes.com, says that Millennials want companies to do the following:
- Actively invest in the betterment of society and the solution of social problems
- Prioritize “making an impact” on the world around them
- Be open and honest about their efforts — and public about their pro-social initiatives
- Involve their customers in their positive social efforts, and giving them an opportunity to give back with a gift of their time or money
According to Lisa Manley of Cone Communications, “To appeal to a diverse Millennial audience, businesses need to understand the unique drivers and preferences of each segment, to tailor their content, communications and channels for greatest impact.” In other words, brands have to understand what social causes appeal to their Millennial customers, select those that best align with their business, and show sincere support.
Appealing to Millennials Starts from Within
To appeal to Millennials outside of their organization, companies need to embed and systematize purpose on the inside as well. After all, not only is the Millennial generation taking up a larger percentage of the consumer base, they’re also a large percentage of the workforce.
Based on research conducted in 2016, Shannon Schuyler, PwC’s chief purpose officer, says that companies should embed and systematize their purpose in a few key ways:
- Use your company purpose as the highest principle for evaluating and making business decisions
- Cultivate and communicate your purpose with personal, human interest stories
- Use your purpose as means to direct your recruitment, employee development and reward systems.
The bottom line? Millennials are a socially aware generation, and want to interact with companies that share their values. This demographic shouldn’t be underestimated. In the US alone, it is estimated that Millennials represent more than $1 trillion in annual spending power, a figure that is growing as they enter their prime earning years.
By putting their money where their mouth is (and by spreading the word on social media), Millennials can help organizations (that have a strong social purpose) thrive. To gain their support, companies need to crystallize their purpose accordingly by finding relevant and authentic social causes to support and embody. Want to know how to do that? Read my piece on How to Create a Social Purpose Brand.