6 Things Millennials Know About Brand Communications That You Don’t



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Brand comms has changed a lot in the last 20 years, thanks to the social media industry and mobile tech. While certain adages remain true across marketing eras—like “The customer is king” and “Your reputation is your business”—much of the marketing wisdom has evolved to take into account the fast-paced, always-on, always-changing world of social media.

Then maybe it’s not surprising that the consumers and professionals who are most equipped to understand what sells, are those who are most native to digital, those who have literally had computing tech around for their entire lives; of course I’m talking about Millennials.

A mounting body of research shows how, because they’ve grown up digital, Millennials’ brains are literally wired differently from previous generations. Other generations get into the digital mindset temporarily, ie. when they’re using the technology. Wired-in Millennials are pretty much in that mindset all the time. Because it’s native, they have a keen awareness of how the mind-on-digital works, and whether your brand communications are going to win hearts and minds online.

Here are some of the things Millennials know about branding that you might not:

1. Experiences are worth paying for

Whether it’s about in-game purchases on a console game or engagement with a brand on Twitter leading to a purchase, the experience of a brand is increasingly and majorly important to consumers online. Just because you can’t touch it, doesn’t mean it’s not a strong business model.

2. Word of mouth trumps fancy ads

Strong visual design is important, but nothing is more important in the digital world than engaging with the social media sidewalk culture and getting talked about by regular folk. This makes tapping into online communities of interest a more useful investment of time and money than flashy ads.

3. The 4-year plan is finished

Not just true of business anymore, this is also true of expressing your brand. In the rapidly changing economy around social and digital, being adaptable and flexible is generally more productive than planning your communications too far ahead of time or in fine detail.

4. Weak ties perform better than strong ones

Having a large number of weak ties to a brand (for example, noticing a large number of tweets about it) is often more powerful in decision-making for consumers than having a small number of strong ties (for example, a close friend recommending it personally). Mob rules: people are more likely to move in a direction when they sense a lot of other people are going that way, too.

5. Digital loves Old School

There’s a special affinity between social media culture and nostalgia/vintage/traditional/crafty pursuits. This includes getting seriously nostalgic about products and brands from our childhoods, and making decidedly un-cool hobbies and brands cool again (yarn-bomb, anyone?). Basically, what’s cool now is more like what your grandmother thought was cool.

6. Buzzwords are out

On a related note, the timeframe for “cool” has changed in other ways, too. Because the social media world is such a quickly evolving creature, it’s become harder than ever to speak “buzz language” without coming across as uncool, or worse, as a business that doesn’t quite get it. Social media demands brands who talk like real people—preferably witty, down-to-earth people.

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