There have been numerous articles written on the topic of millennials, with emerging focus given on how millennial adults are disrupting the corporate workforce. The New York Times recently published an article ‘Marketers Are Sizing Up the Millennials’, and the unanimous concern by marketers was the apparent lack of brand loyalty. A generation that has more choices open to them than any generation before them, it has made it more difficult for marketers to predict their consumer behaviour patterns. McDonald’s Global Chief Brand Officer Steve Easterbrook described Millennials as:
“Promiscuous in their brand loyalty…it makes it harder work for all of us to earn the loyalty of the millennial generation."
So why are millennials so fickle with their brand loyalty?
This growing concern for marketers is tied to the unique characteristics of this generation. In a nutshell: millennials are overwhelmingly digital natives, increasingly concerned with corporate social responsibility, and as the generation that came of age during the GFC, more frugal than their predecessors. As more millennials begin to enter the market and have cash to burn, the question raised is- how can my company appeal to this tech-savvy generation?
To no one’s surprise, much of the focus spent on engaging with millennials is via online avenues. A generation that has been raised to be interconnected in a global marketplace, millennials do their homework before committing to any brand or product. More than any other generation, mobile technology and social media have transformed the spending habits of young people. Social media in particular, has shaped how this generation ‘shares its thoughts and extends its influence over others.’ This has seen a rise of ‘social influencers’ unique to this generation, with the phenomenon of bloggers who have cultivated an authentic relationship with their readers, resonating with young people and influencing their purchasing decisions.
In contrast with the baby boomers, millennials are more 'aware of a product’s and issues and therefore consumers are much less brand loyal.' Thus a smart company will be active on social media, demonstrating engagement with their consumers and show that they are 'keeping their consumers well informed and up to date, not just on what’s in the market now, but what coming next'. It is also no coincidence that fast-food chains that have rebranded themselves as socially responsible have fared better with young people. McDonalds’s key competitors Chipotle and Panera, largely responsible for McDonald’s ‘millennial problem’, have crafted an image of social responsibility through offering organic ingredients and pork from ‘naturally raised’ pigs.
When marketing to a generation that is notoriously fickle with aligning itself with one brand, millennials place high value on companies that value corporate social responsibility and makes the effort to make the world a better place. While key characteristics can be made about this generation, Ad Age reports “size estimates for this demographic group range anywhere from 59 million to 80 million.” Indeed the lack of agreement on the precise age group of this generation has made it more confusing when attempting to market to a demographic with such a large age gap. Yet with millennials already representing $1.3 trillion in consumer spending, it is worthwhile for companies to approach marketing to this demographic with a renewed focus on appealing to their values, identifying their influencers, and strategic social media engagement.