The Millennial Brand Phenomenon

The Millennial Brand Phenomenon

Millennials – the tech-savvy generation born between 1980 and 2000 are now the fastest-growing generation of customers in the world marketplace as well as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. According to the Pew Center for Research, these technology-wise, cause-oriented, team-focused workers make up 35 percent of the American workforce or one in three workers. Millennials account for a quarter of the world’s population and will make up a whopping 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025.  As the oldest near their 40s, they are moving increasingly into higher-level management positions.

The world is taking note of Millennials.

Originally, they got a bad rap in the workplace. Some supervisors said Millennials were entitled, self-absorbed, impatient, difficult to manage and poor communicators, the result of sheltered, carefully structured childhoods where every milestone was marked with celebrations and praise. Experts told us Millennials were different. Consultants jumped on board to fill the gap – to provide companies with the capability to successfully integrate Millennials into the workforce. Employee engagement strategies aimed at Millennials spread like wildfire.

However, several studies – most notably those cited by Bruce Pfau in his 2016 Harvard Business Review article “What Do Millennials Really Want at Work? The Same Things the Rest of Us Do” – point out that employees of all ages are much more alike than different and that when gaps do exist, they are the differences that always existed between younger and older workers throughout history and have little to do with the Millennial generation.

Millennials join with all generations of workers in calling on leaders to be sensitive to emotional well-being in the workplace and to influence, motivate and inspire employees to perform well. Every generation wants leaders who pay attention to workers, recognize and reward people, provide leadership development, give workers decision-making privileges and provide them with opportunities to serve their communities.

The Millennial Brand Impact

That said, so far on their journey into corporate America, Millennials are shaking things up. Just as the sheer numbers of their parents and grandparents disrupted the way things were done by other generations, the huge wave of Millennial consumers are being targeted by today’s marketers – their habits, dreams and desires analyzed.

What are the implications for marketers?  Marketers must do their homework.  Millennials don’t choose brands by how attractive an ad is or how well-crafted the copy is – instead they focus on the story a brand tells and the values it exhibits. According to Josh Ong, writing in Forbes, Millennials choose to vote with their wallets for brands that tell inspiring stories, conduct business ethically or contribute to their personal brands. They like newer companies with less name recognition. They want a company to show commitment to the environment, treat workers well and offer their product at a lower price than the competition. They expect brands to give back to society and not just make profits. They expect brands to be there when they have a complaint.

As the proud parent of two Millennials, I’m hopeful for this generation.  Can we generalize about Millennials’ personal brand? For the sake of bringing home key points, of course!

  • Tech-savvy – they own more devices than generations before them and their lives are super-connected. They use digital platforms for banking, bill payment, reservations and other functions.
  • They want to engage with brands and they use technology to do so.
  • They care about the environment and social issues such as same-sex marriage, hunger and access to quality education.
  • They want meaningful work – to earn a good living doing work that matters.
  • They love being part of a team.
  • They expect some humor and fun at work – to the benefit of all!
  • They want freedom of choice – they’ll do that assignment and do it well – but in their own way.
  • They value flexibility. A recent Parade article thanked Millennials for being serious evangelists for better work-from-home policies in industries that run primarily in the digital world.

That Parade article also summed up Millennials’ contribution to the workforce – encouraging employees to shape the modern workplace to fit their own needs while still getting the job done, seeking work with meaning and purpose, and holding employers to a higher standard in terms of company culture, work-life balance and workplace flexibility. Way to go Millennials!

At the end-of-the-day, Millennials bring diversity to the workplace – different thinking, different ways of doing things, flexibility and innovation.  Isn’t it time that we embrace these changes?