Millennials Want Transparency and Social Impact. What Are You Doing to Build a Millennial-Friendly Brand?

Believe it or not, money is not always the first thing on millennials' minds.
Millennials Want Transparency and Social Impact. What Are You Doing to Build a Millennial-Friendly Brand?
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Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer
Founder of Verma Media
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Baby boomer and Gen-X marketers often seem bamboozled by the millennial generation. The latter group has access to technology in their youth that their predecessors did not; so, naturally, they've adapted to a broader range of resources, and to a much more connected world. And their behaviors reflect those scenarios.

Related: 10 Tips for Millennial Marketing

In addition, millennials grew up or entered the workforce during the 2008 recession; so, a significant number of them employ cautious and practical attitudes toward spending. 

Let’s be frank, though: Millennials are a diverse generation, so it’s impossible to make any sort of monolithic statement about them. What appeals to one millennial may not resonate with another. Still, as a group, they have enough characteristics in common that it's possible to make some general statements. That's why looking at what behaviors they do share is an essential part of constructing a brand specifically with them in mind.

Companies cannot approach that task with outdated techniques: Building a millennial-friendly brand requires a more intimate understanding of what motivates them -- and to do that, you, as a business leader, should adopt three strategies:

1. Communicate an impactful purpose.

The world is in a dire state. With the rising cost of living, sluggish job markets and sky-high college debts, millennials are tight on cash; they can't make the charitable donations their parents once did. Given these circumstances, many want to patronize and work for companies that are not only customer-oriented, but have socially oriented mission statements (and actually follow through).

Related: 3 Essential Tips for Marketing to Millennials

In its 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability report, Nielsen noted that 66 percent of respondents had said they were willing to pay extra for more sustainable brands, while fully 73 percent of millennial respondents said the same. In addition, 81 percent of millennials expected their preferred companies to make public declarations of corporate citizenship.

A company in business only for profit is unimaginative. Mayra Urbano is a social entrepreneur mentor who strongly believes in building businesses that better society. According to  a LinkedIn Pulse piece from Urbano, there are four social impact pillars that this generation wants to see brands emphasize: 1) actively invest in improving society and solving social problems; 2) prioritize their societal impacts; 3) be transparent and public about their efforts; and 4) include their customers in their social endeavors.

Millennials are eager for chances to give back, so they gravitate toward companies that allow them to do just that.

2. Emphasize sharing.

Something many of us like to do is share. We share stories, photos, home videos, milestones, etc. And, thanks to advancing technology, millennials have an easier way of doing this.

Rather than pull a scrapbook off the shelf to show to a dinner guest, millennials have a constant stream of photos they've posted on their social media accounts, like Instagram, for hundreds or even thousands of their friends to see. The same penchant for sharing applies to brands: If millennial viewers find a company they like, they can tell everyone they know about it with just the touch of a button or a few short sentences.

Millennials -- again because of those recession years -- worry about consistently rising prices. They may be hesitant to commit to large-scale purchases. The financial crisis they witnessed during their formative years has had a lasting impact on how they approach financial investment decisions.  In 2016 Goldman Sachs released a Millennials Coming of Age study that explored how this generation approaches spending. The study said: 

“It’s not just homes: Millennials have been reluctant to buy items such as cars, music, and luxury goods. Instead, they’re turning to a new set of services that provide access to products without the burdens of ownership, giving rise to what’s being called a ‘sharing economy.’”

The Uberization of our society is undeniable, and members of this generation continue to gravitate toward such shareable solutions because they serve as viable options for lessening people's financial burdens. 

3. Prioritize transparency.

Every brand marketer knows it's hard to win consumer trust, but it's even more difficult to win it back. This generation came of age with smartphones and social media, so they're highly accustomed to an abundance of information. While previous generations may have happily employed an '"ignorance is bliss" mindset when it came to how products were produced, this socially conscious demographic wants the brands they engage with to be open and honest.

The more forthright you can be regarding your brand history, product development and overall consumer initiatives, the higher chance you'll have of building up trust and, eventually, loyalty.

Give your customers a peak behind the curtain: Content series formats -- like blog posts, Facebook Live streaming events and Instagram Stories -- give you the opportunity to bring millennial customers into the fold and show them exactly who you are and what you stand for as a company.  

Thanks to social platforms, brands have countless content opportunities to forge real conversations and relationships with buyers. When it comes to appealing to consumers in 2018, the more information you can offer, the better off your brand will be. 

Related: Struggling to Market to Millennials? Here Are 4 Tips That Can Help.

In the end, a millennial-friendly brand does not mean simply employing the latest technology. Millennials have had a rough go of it, so you can assume they'll turn to brands that make a positive impact. For these reasons, take pride in transparency and emphasize sharing.

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