What (Truly) Matters to Millennials

For marketers, millennials are a moving target. Millennial shoppers are constantly on the go and forever adopting new gadgets. That leaves marketers with the relentless job of figuring out the best way to connect with this group of 18- to 34-year-olds; it also has marketers working to understand what truly resonates with this generation of young adults, estimated to be 86 million strong.

Gen Y, according to comScore, makes about $170 billion in purchases every year. So the analysts at digital ad agency Moosylvania recently surveyed more than 1,500 millennial consumers to find out what moves millennials to make a purchase. The findings proved to be interesting. In this intriguing Q&A, Moosylvania founder and CEO Norty Cohen breaks down exactly how the most popular brands among this generation are making meaningful—and profitable—connections with millennial shoppers.

So what makes a brand resonate with a millennial, i.e. beyond the sheer product, what makes millennials connect with marketing messages?
Millennial consumers are fabulous marketers. They are their own brand managers. They monitor their analytics—they know, instantly, if they are accepted and connected in the moment. When marketers understand and promote that, it allows consumers to make the brand part of their lifestyle; it helps millennials with their own brand.

Let’s talk about the brand marketers who are doing it right. Nike, Apple, Samsung and Sony, followed by survey up-and-comer Walmart were named by millennials in this report as their top five favorite brands.  How are these companies connecting with young adults?
We asked [young] consumers, both qualitatively and quantitatively, which characteristics brands must possess to be dubbed a millennial favorite.

Remember everything a brand does will reflect on the identities of these young consumers. So high-quality products that say something about who you are when you recommend them were the top two of six attributes—then came the answer, “fits their personality.” So it’s a matter of tonality. After that was social responsibility, shares similar interests, and a brand that says things that millennials find important. And we know from our April study that technology is a badge of honor to this group.

Top 50 Millennial Brands

(Click image to enlarge)

Why do you feel brands like Facebook, PlayStation, and Old Navy are among the 11 brands dropped from the top 50 and lost favor with young adults?
It’s all about constant connectivity and developing programming that embraces the moment. They may have simply taken their foot off of that pedal in the last nine months.

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Walmart seems to be intrinsically different than the other brands in the top five. Why do you feel that this retailer is connecting with such a young generation? 
Walmart has been on the list; it just moved up. We’ve looked at it carefully, and we believe it’s the value proposition—the store helps them achieve their lifestyle. 

There are a couple of other reasons, too. First, we know that in-store experiences—maybe quick opportunity to make purchases—are helping. But also its Savings Catcher app is clearly targeted to the digitally savvy. Also, Walmart has the opportunity to build CRM into their communications stream which may also be helping. The more interesting caveat to this is that Walmart has been on the list twice and there were no beer brands mentioned in either study by consumers. To us, this is the most revealing contrast particularly since the two beer brands spend $1 billion in so-called one-way advertising.

Would marketers be more effective by creating a culture or cause that millennials can believe in—rather than trying to become friends?
Causes help for sure. Colgate jumped into the list, and they had a “Tweet a Smile” promo. For each smile tweet, Colgate would give to charity. It was original and seemed to resonate. There’s no question that social responsibility helps—but it is only one part of the mix.

So, how can marketers show millennials that they care about the communities and neighborhoods of young adults?
Well, the simple answer is to ask them. Ultimately, the brands that show up on the list have two-way communication that is excelling, believable, and sincere.

Your team mentioned micro-targeting as a major player in relating to millennials. What is micro-targeting, and why might this be an effective strategy for brand marketers to consider?
We would look at micro-targeting as both segmentation, as well as personalization. We know from our April study that 40% of this audience will opt in for email. There’s no more personalized connection than email—if you have a real conversation. Some brands have real personalities, and it comes across. Others think it’s an in-store sign.

As this generation continues to mature, what might marketers need to look out for as they craft future campaigns?
One of the things we constantly talk about is thinking friendship over marketing. We know that millennials filter out marketing messages. So, marketers need to find their center, and be real. What do real friends do? We trust friends who listen to us, who are open and honest, who remember our names, who are consistent, and who are true to who they are.

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