5 millennial desires that brand managers should fulfill

To reach this burgeoning group, PR and marketing pros must adjust their strategies and tactics. Here’s what you should know about these consumers—and how you can interact with them.

Millennials have become a highly coveted consumer group.

The problem is that these young adults (born between the early 1980s and mid-’90s) aren’t swayed by the same kinds of advertising as prior generations were.

This has become a major concern for businesses, because millennials are now the largest demographic and have nearly $200 billion in annual buying power. Companies vying to earn this younger market’s business must do so by building trust.

Marketers must understand what millennials want and need. Here are some focal points:

Millennials’ mission to understand a brand mission

Consumers were once concerned only with the products a brand provided, but the focus has shifted to an organization’s actions. This trend toward purpose over products was a focal point at a recent Wharton Marketing Conference. Featured findings included how millennials support ethical and caring organizations that strive to do the right thing. The companies that base their corporate missions on these benevolent qualities earn millennials’ trust.

How can the companies aspiring to these goals convey this to millennials? Experts from the Wharton conference advised sharing proof of a company’s good will—not in a press release but by capturing its humane actions in videos and posting them on the company’s website and social media pages.

Millennials want to drive the direction of brands

Millennials have changed the brand concept. According to Business2Community, millennials enjoy participating and having a say in the overall brand experience. They want to be involved in the creation of new products and play an active role in the direction of a brand. They want their views and voices to be heard through social media and blogs so they feel they’re part of the brands and products they love.

What does this mean? It means companies must yield some control of the brand and incorporate customer input in brand development. This makes millennials feel important to the company and engenders pride that leads to coveted word-of-mouth and real credibility.

Customer engagement is now a must. It’s no longer enough for a company to simply have a social media presence; it must respond to customers’ comments and open a dialogue. Research has shown that 62 percent of consumers are more likely to become loyal customers if an organization engages with them on social media.

Millennials express opinions, certainly, but they also want to become co-creators and help their pet organizations to develop products and content. Companies are creating unique promotions that let customers invent new items and flavors, and interest in creating content has popularized user-generated videos among this young audience. It might be hard for brand managers to give up control, but it’s important for them to encourage customer collaborations, user-generated product reviews and other forms of engagement that make a consumer a brand contributor.

Millennials rate recommendations higher than ads

According to AdWeek, millennials aren’t content to blindly believe an ad. They prefer to be referred to a product or company by family, friends and peers.

Studies have shown that personal recommendations are up to 10 times more influential than ads or branded content. Organizations are no longer taken at their word, but rather are the sum of what others say about them. This has increasingly led young adults to turn to blogs, social media and other sources to get a more comprehensive look at brands and products.

Though millennials mainly listen to those they know, they also trust online influencers (some with millions of followers) who share their advice and recommendations to help consumers make decisions.

More and more brand managers realize that working with online influencers gets them a large amount of millennial exposure for very little expense.

Millennials support sharing over ownership

Whereas previous generations have viewed ownership as a symbol of their success, most millennials have little interest in owning big-ticket items such as a house, car or boat.

They prefer to share, rent or borrow, elevating the sharing economy, which has affected many industries, especially travel brands. This trend has fostered companies like Airbnb and Uber, whose immense popularity with young adults has made them into major competitors of traditional travel brands for a share of this young audience.

Millennials demand authenticity

According to the Huffington Post, young adults have no interest in big promises and glossy promotions. Instead, they want honest messages, authentic brands and genuine interactions. Research has shown that 43 percent of millennials value authenticity over branded content. An organization can prove its authenticity in several ways, such as:

  • Communicating with consumers: Thanks to social media, brands have direct access to millennials and can engage in conversations. Brands should make the most of this opportunity to interact with their audiences by responding to comments in a timely, engaging way.
  • Opening up the business: Millennials’ general distrust of advertising means companies have to let their actions do the talking by offering a look inside their business. Organizations must show how they operate their businesses and demonstrate their desire to do the right thing.
  • Staying relevant: Millennials seek a connection with the brand that relates to their needs. This can be accomplished by producing content to reflect this young market’s interests, goals and desires.
  • Sharing how the organization cares: The best way to prove authenticity is by showing that the brand cares about millennials, its employees and making the lives of consumers much better. Seeing is believing, and actions speak louder than words, so show examples of how much the company truly cares.

Michael Del Gigante is the president and creative director of marketing and communications agency MDG Advertising. A version of this article originally appeared on the agency’s blog.

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