The Millennial Perspective: Brands


According to a study by Barkley, The Boston Consulting Group and SMG, millennials make up 25 percent of the U.S. population and hold more than $200 billion in buying power. Needless to say, millennials can be a lucrative demographic if a company can successfully connect with them. However, older generations seem to have trouble relating to members of Generation Y, raising the question on how to best start a conversation with those “pesky whippersnappers.” Therefore, I reached out via Facebook status – in true millennial form – to ask my peers about their perceptions of brands. Between my primary and secondary research, I discovered three key findings on the millennial perspective of brands. (In this context, I defined millennials as those born between 1982 and 2004, borrowed from researchers Neil Howe and William Straus.)

We care the most about the product being sold.

One finding rings true for all generations: No matter what, the quality of the product or service you’re selling is most important. “I love a brand based on the quality of the product,” said one of my surveyed millennial friends. “If my dollar is not well spent on the product, I will never buy it again.” Another respondent stated she appreciates a brand that “keeps up with the changes in our society while upholding quality products or services.” It doesn’t matter if your company can “talk the talk” if your product can’t “walk the walk.” Before purchasing something, millennials will often do research to ensure their expectations are met.

We go to our friends or other third parties for recommendations.

Millennials do not take corporate messaging at face value. They understand that a business is going to present itself in the best light, so they want information verified by an outside source. One of my respondents stated that she spends an average of three hours to two weeks researching a product before she purchases it, depending on the type of product being bought and how much it costs. With that, it’s no surprise to find that millennials tend to rely on friends and family, trusting word-of-mouth recommendations. If they can’t get an opinion from someone they know, they’re more likely to look up information on third-party review websites. According to the Boston Consulting Group, about 50 percent of millennials have used a mobile device to look up product reviews while they shopped.

We support causes.

A Trusted Partner study shows that 83 percent of millennials donate money to nonprofits, and they desire to see their money translated into how many people they’ve helped. Another study by Waldenfound 70 percent of millennials actively educate others about a cause or issue. Millennials like brands that align themselves with values that they care about. One respondent stated that she likes brands that are involved with their communities and “take a political stance that [she agrees] with.” Consequently, some millennials have shown disdain toward brands whose values do not align with their own. A few respondents from my research sample recalled instances where they boycotted a brand based on its company’s stance on certain social issues and controversial topics. This trend can be seen on a larger level, too. A study by the Center For American Progress found that “58% of millennials support marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, 66% support a pathway to citizenship for residents who are in violation of federal immigration law, and 94% support interracial dating and marriage.” These findings show that millennials are defying their stereotype of being apathetic and self-centered. Instead, they’re proving to be a generation that’s very invested in the world around them.

As previously mentioned, the above findings show the millennial perspective of brands based on my primary and secondary research.