Millennials control $660B in spending and are often included in family purchasing decisions. I like to say it’s not just that millennials have the power, they are the power. In recent years, while a lot of companies weren’t watching, millennials have been on a murderous rampage of individual brands and even entire industries. In their wake, they have left the remnants of those that were unsuccessful in understanding Millennial’s lifestyles, budgets, and the causes they care most about most.
Employers and brands have had to evolve to not only better attract and recruit Millennials, but retain, manage, and motivate them. Some have done better than others. Those that stood firm in their ways have been left to fight over the scraps of talent after the best have been picked over by more Millennial-minded talent seekers.
What can we learn from failure? Failed brands, industries, and employers offer a valuable learning opportunity for others.
Authenticity, Authenticity, Authenticity
Authenticity is priceless to Millennials. For proof, just ask Abercrombie, Aeropostale, or Hollister about their recent sales figures. These brands — with their heavy emphasis on logos, formulaic branding, and skinny-only floor workers — quickly fell out of favor with Millennials. Focus-grouped to death, they projected a comically manufactured mainstream “cool” that Millennials quickly called B.S. on and now their sales are cratering.
Millennials’ message is clear: they don’t like what corporate-suits want them to like. They want brands that are just cool.
Cool brands don’t speak to all Millennials, they speak directly to their Millennials—the specific Millennials who are going to buy the brand’s goods or service. These brands speak in a voice that their Millennials identify with. They appear in the places that their Millennials spend their time and they establish a relationship with their Millennials that feels organic.
Employers interested in capturing Millennial talent need a similar mindset to the brands Millennials connect with. From the perks employers offer, to the way they handle recruitment, to the tools they use in the office, employers need to create a work environment that reflects the world Millennials exist in outside of their 9-5. Demonstrating an understanding of how Millennials think, work, and see the world will do wonders for employers’ efforts to attract young talent.
Key to companies who succeed in selling to or employing Millennials is the fact that they realize Millennials aren’t a homogenous demographic or psychographic, but instead are a diverse group of individuals.
Saving Time is a Major Selling Point
Time might be the hottest commodity on the market for Millennials. An emphasis on time-saving has meant trouble for time-sucks, like golf and sit-down restaurants, that don’t cater to the on-the-go Millennials lifestyle.
In their place, massive brands like Uber and Tinder are cashing in on the Millennial need to streamline every aspect of their lives. Brands that are able to provide concrete, time-savings, and convenience can be confident they will have a steady flow of time-pressed Millennials as customers.
For employers, this emphasis on time means employers must make the effort to improve outdated office dynamics and procedures. Eliminating meetings with communication tools like Slack, utilizing Google Drive rather than Microsoft Word, and updated office policies are all ways to cater to a Millennial generation that has grown up with the world at its fingertips.
Brands Beware – Millennials Change the World!
Millennials care about the world and they are willing to pony-up for the causes they believe in.
In 2014 84% of Millennials made a charitable donation, despite being burdened with student loans. Even though they are cash strapped, Millennials average a yearly donation of $481.
And they expect the same from the brands that they buy from and the employers they work for.
According to a Harris Interactive study, 55% of Millennials said that a brand’s CSR reputation sometimes affects (34%) or has a strong effect (17%) on their decision to make a purchase. In recent years, this has created a predicament for brands like the NFL with concerns over the health of its players and the oil Industry with its effects on the environment.
Employers aren’t off the hook either: in a study of 1,800 13-25 year old, 80% wanted to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society.
If brands can tie themselves to the causes their target Millennial consumers care about and demonstrate they want to work with Millennials to help make the world a better place, it will be easier it will be for them to make organic connections with their target audience.
For employers, it is about having an actionable and visible CSR policy which includes volunteer and community impact opportunities for young talent, something Millennial workers highly value when seeking work. Whether it is volunteer opportunities, charity competitions, or other ways of giving back, community outreach is a big selling point for young people hoping to change the world.
Brands – keep this in mind: Millennials are poor.
The class of 2016 averaged about $37,172 of student debt. As a result, industries like real estate, designer bags and clothing, high-quality furniture, and luxury items (like motorcycles) have taken a hit to their bottom line.
While luxury brands have taken a hit, thrifty brands that cater to lower quality and less expensive goods are getting a boost. Brands such as Target, Kohl’s, and IKEA have become favorites of a generation that buys cheap and for the short term. Fears about never being able to retire have put money options at a premium. Brands that help Millennials save are seen as partners in Millennial’s attempts to keep from financially drowning.
For brands, helping alleviate traditional costs, — Zipcar and Airbnb being prime examples — or offering loyalty programs like Kroger’s, can prove to be important selling points for Millennials already feeling the pinch of their daily expenses.
For employers, perks like public transportation passes, provided snacks or meals, or company discounts can be big attractions for millennials interested in cutting back on as much spending as possible in order to save.
Millennials over the last few years have made their preferences known and it is up to employers and brands to pivot their marketing, offerings, and corporate policies to attract talent. Otherwise, they will end up in the graveyard alongside oatmeal, Hollister, and the oil industry. And that is no place you want your brand or company to be.