Connecting with millennials

According to ZenithOptimedia’s latest global consumer insight study: The Pursuit of Happiness, young people have a fundamentally different approach to achieving happiness which has profound implications for brand marketing.

In its study of the lives of millennials – consumers aged 18 to 34 – ZenithOptimedia found millennials’ attitudes to life have been shaped by a prolonged recession, technological empowerment, and more life freedom.

The study also discovered that a millennial’s happiness is achieved through two key factors: Freedom and control. Using the information, ZenithOptimedia created a marketing manifesto to enable brands to achieve meaningful and sustainable engagement with millennials.

Today brands need to help create experiences that enable millennials to have purpose-driven lives. Becoming a brand that is socially responsible and useful is start in helping millennials in their pursuit of happiness.

Millennials like brands that are genuinely useful. Brands therefore need to prove they are serious about helping millennials throughout the buy, but what they buy into. In the digital era brands need a clear purpose and a coherent series of attributes that reflect authentic experiences, going beyond what’s expected to build goodwill.

Here are five ways brands can connect to millenials:

  1. Humanise your brand

Millennials are happy when they make genuine connections, fuelled by meaningful experiences, on-going support and shareable stories. Brands need to support and facilitate this. Invite young people in and let the conversation flow by showing an authentic, relatable brand.

  1. Create meaningful assets

Invest in owned media and assets and place them at the forefront of your communications strategy. Millennials are looking for meaningful experiences that help them develop narratives that reinforce their identities. Brands will need to place user experiences at the heart of their communication. This requires expansive, experience oriented brand building, and brand stories in an authentic voice.

  1. Create purposeful value exchange

The desire to make the most of their lives motivates millennials to invest in personal development. They want a purposeful value exchange to achieve their higher goals. They expect brands to be of service to them, so user journeys should make them feel they are making the most of their lives and are in control of their paths to adulthood.

  1. Orientate on user experience

In the digital era, people don’t accept things merely on trust. They value real experiences, peer guidance and expert recommendations. Brands like Google and Amazon have strong bonds with consumers, without abstract concepts or advertising. Understand what millennials expect of the product category and how they use these products or services. Think about how to make the consumer pathway effortless.

Brand experiences should migrate across different platforms and devices: millennials expect brands to know them and remember their past interactions.

  1. Share your customers’ stories

Millennials love sharing their experiences with family and friends. Give them content that makes them look good. Understand the types of stories that are worth sharing. Work out how your brand can help them create stories that enhance their identity.

Linda Tan, strategic insights says,: “Brands that can help millennials achieve happiness stand the best chance of securing long-lasting and profitable relationships with this important consumer group. While millennials might seem a very care-free audience, obsessed with social media and celebrities, scratch below the surface and you will discover very savvy, discerning and astute consumers.”

The study also states that faced with the conundrum of an array of opportunities awaiting them, but with a lack of money or the financial security needed to pursue many of these, millennials are having to impose far higher levels of on control on their lives in order to realise their ambitions. In contrast to the hedonistic ideals of previous generations, what millennials consider important for achieving happiness are: Health and wellbeing, financial stability, career, following your dreams and pursuing your passions, and formal education.

While previous generations rebelled against controls, millennials believe they need to be in control of finances, work, social and family lives in order to take advantage of freedoms and opportunities.

The study found that millennials who are in control of their career are 56% happier than those who are not in control. Similarly, millennials who are in control of their passions and interests are 55% happier. Those in control of their social life are 35% happier.

There are also significant country differences in terms of the areas of control required to achieve happiness. For example, in the US the key areas of control are finances, social life and work/life balance, but in Spain it is career/education, ambitions and finances. In general, career and finance are considered by millennials to be the two most critical areas to control in order to achieve happiness.

With such a different approach to achieving happiness, not surprisingly millennials have very different views on what constitutes adulthood, compared to previous generations. ZenithOptimedia also discovered that happiness can dip sharply for older millennials at age 28 – the lowest levels experienced in the UK where millennials of that age experience a 10% drop in happiness. This was identified a clear ‘Quarterlife Crisis’.

The study covered 10 countries: Argentina, Australia, China, France, Mexico, Russia, Spain, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and United States. The online qualitative survey had 300 participants and our online quantitative survey had 5,800 participants. The agency also created an internal portal to gather the comments and experience across the ZenithOptimedia network of 262 offices.