Millennials are a little trigger-shy when it comes to making purchases. The recession left its mark on us—we know how quickly fortunes can change and money can become scarce. The shocking, downright depressing costs of student loans have also made funds low. Baby boomers who have held on to their higher-paying jobs because of recession-driven 401k losses have left millennials without the paychecks their parents saw at this stage in their lives.
Long story short: millennials aren’t making much, we have a lot of bills, and we worry about our financial future to the point where we’ve put off purchases past generations made at our age.
But here’s a plot twist you probably weren’t expecting: recent studies are proving that more than 9 in 10 millennials would switch brands if it means supporting a cause—even if they have to pay more—and nearly two-thirds of millennial consumers say that brand trust is the top influence factor in purchase decisions. In addition, “81% of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship,” according to a study by Horizon Media’s Finger on the Pulse.
For brands, supporting a cause is more than just a benefit—it’s a selling point. With $600 billion in collective U.S. yearly spending on the line, companies are scrambling to demonstrate their ethical business practices, social messaging and responsibility, and sustainable manufacturing and sourcing.
Here are three ways to make sure you’re getting your values-based marketing across to millennials the right way.
1. Your Values Are Your Brand—So Put Them Out There
Don’t let your values become a footnote in your branding. Be clear and upfront about your brand values. State your community involvement, ethics, and sustainable practices as reasons to buy your product, because they are.
Along with putting values out front, you should keep your marketing from being all about you. Expand your messaging to include how your product or brand impacts the world outside of your target audience. A Forbes article by Sarah Landrum does a good job of explaining it in terms of socially responsible marketing. A Nielsen report on marketing to millennials using brand values puts it this way: “A balanced approach is key for brand communicators, with the emphasis on demonstrating good deeds versus self-serving promotion.”
Still confused? Compare these two one-minute 2018 Super Bowl beer commercials for Budweiser and Bud Light. Both use engaging story lines (although neither really talk about their product), but Budweiser took the focus away from “buy our product” to “you can depend on us,” a message that resonates with millennials who spend timidly for fear of the future.
2. Show Your Brand’s Values—Don’t Prey On Consumer Weaknesses
The danger of marketing your values is that it can come off as braggadocious, accusatory, or fear mongering (think of the ASPCA commercials with all the sad animals out in the rain while a Sarah McLachlan song plays—I won’t link to one, because I am not horrible and won’t make you cry at work). Guilting or terrorizing a viewer may get them to buy, but it’s not going to get them to like your brand.
On the same note, bragging won’t get you points with millennials, either. It’s not enough that your brand does good; it’s that it wants to do good, that it feels a responsibility to do good. That’s what millennials are looking for: a brand we can trust to do the right thing when the cameras aren’t on.
Avoid bragging, accusing, or instilling fear by following these principles:
- If you’re telling a story, stick to the facts. Don’t use flowery language or a bunch of adjectives to make it hit harder—it will come off as pandering and turn off millennials.
- Listing awards or recognitions is fine… as long as you include reasons the consumer should care. If your company won an award for your efforts in sustainability, thank the consumer for spending the extra money to buy sustainable products. After all, if they didn’t buy it, you would be out of business and not getting awards.
- Don’t play on fears. It’s all right to put some “what if?” scenarios out there, but always provide a solution and a happy ending (or at least a hope for the future). Compare the Nationwide 2015 Super Bowl commercial to Tide’s Tide Pods commercial, and you’ll see the difference.
3. Walk the Talk—Stick to Your Values and Keep Your Promises
Sticking to your brand values is crucial—76% of millennials will do the necessary research to ensure you’re putting your money where your mouth is. Follow through with your promises and expand on the outcomes. Hyundai’s 2018 Super Bowl ad did this by thanking real Hyundai drivers for their role in helping fund pediatric cancer research. Another option would be to mail thank you cards to those who made purchases whose proceeds went toward a specific cause. Show them that their purchase translated into tangible outcomes.
Just as important is to clearly market the values you support so millennials aren’t left guessing what you were trying to say. There are disasters like Pepsi’s ad with Kendall Jenner, which missed the mark completely, and then there are others that seem like they’re hitting all the right notes, but are still criticized for not totally sticking to the values being shown, like Chipotle’s commercial dubbed “The Scarecrow.” On the other side of that coin, P&G’s 2018 Winter Olympics ad was able to put a spotlight on their values and turn the lens toward what the consumer can accomplish (in this case, what a mother’s love can do).
You can also let your work speak for itself. If you are doing good in the world, others will notice and create content for you, ranging from the factual (news coverage) to the complimentary (social media posts). That third-party marketing will come naturally if you are serious about your commitments.
Millennials expect brands to bring more to the table than just their product—we expect companies to take a serious look at how their products impact the world and how their brand can positively influence society. If you need help letting your values-based marketing shine to attract a millennial market, contact us today.
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