MBPT Spotlight: ZenithOptimedia Study Offers Brands Insights Into Millennial Consumers

Most marketers love millennials, so it’s not surprising that more media agencies are conducting studies to find out how their clients can best reach this preferred group of younger consumers.

The latest to release a study is ZenithOptimedia, which used several research methodologies to gather data from 6,000 adults 18-34 in major cities in 10 countries worldwide. Titled The Pursuit of Happiness: Creating Meaningful Brand Experiences For Millennials, the study presents an overview on what matters to today’s young adults and offers brand imperatives necessary to meeting their needs and expectations.

The basic premise of the study is that understanding consumer happiness is critical to brand engagement; the data finds that millennials “have a fundamentally different approach to achieving happiness compared to previous generations, which has profound implications for brand marketing.”

The study found that since many millennials lack either the funds or the financial security needed to pursue several of their goals, large numbers of them are having to impose far higher levels of control on their lives. The study also found that millennials shun the “free spirit” goals of baby boomers and have a completely different understanding of what constitutes adulthood.

For today’s millennials spending time with friends or going to a concert is more important than material goods, with millennials believing they are judged by how they express themselves, not by what they own. This is why so many millennials are active on social media.

The study also found that only 17% of millennials consider buying a house a milestone of adulthood and only 20% believe getting married is a sign of being an adult. Only 39% believe that moving out of their parents’ house is a key part of being an adult, but 59% believe becoming a successful adult is tied to being a decision-maker and 60% believe it is tied to being financially independent.

Research was gathered from millennials in the United States, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, China, France, Mexico, Russia, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. And from the data, ZenithOptimedia devised a Marketing Manifesto to help brands achieve meaningful and sustainable engagement with the demo group.

This brand manifesto includes seven pieces of advice marketers should follow if they want to win over millennials as consumers of their brands.

1.Help Millennials Live Fulfilled Lives

Happiness for millennials means making the most of their lives, living with a purpose and having meaningful experiences. Brands that help them organize their busy lives so they have time to spend with family and friends will be more valued.

2.Help Millennials Give Their Best

Personal development and high aspirations are important to millennials, and this mindset should start at the product development stage for brands. Don’t just be useful; be meaningful.

3.Deliver Meaningful Brand Experiences

Millennials gather experiences the way earlier generations amassed prized material possessions. Brands can help them do this, be it through helping them express what they stand for or by providing those desired experiences.

4.Help Millennials Make Wise Decisions

 Millennials have freedom, access and choice. Their generation wants to be certain they’ve found the right answer. However, the abundance of choices and information may cause them to believe the stakes are higher than they really are, making them less confident about making decisions or avoiding them altogether. Brands need to find easy and convenient ways to help millennials make decisions.

5.Help Millennials Write Their Personal Stories

Millennials are happy when they have meaningful experiences in aspects of their lives that are important to them. This creates their personal narrative. As enablers of happiness, brands need to think about how they can help millennials have experiences that fuel their life stories.

6.Enable And Facilitate Control

The study finds that millennials want structures of control in place. Being in control of their life brings more happiness. The brands’ role is to help millennials take control in terms of decision-making, how best to use the products and services and how to get the best deals.

7.Respect The Relationship

Millennials are savvy consumers who want brands that reflect their own values. Brands need to be authentic in what they stand for and to develop relationships with millennials through shared values. In a digital era, brands that don’t practice what they preach will be found out. Millennials only want to be associated with brands that walk the talk.

Knowing the Differences

While the advice holds true overall, the study does find there are cultural differences across the countries in terms of the mindset of millennials approaching adulthood, and it’s important for marketers to be aware of those differences when brand targeting in each country.

For example, regarding financial stability, while all millennials say it’s important to them, those in countries with individualistic cultures such as the U.S. , U.K. and Australia rank it higher than those in Argentina and China, where millennials tend to rely more on their families for financial help.

American millennials put career at the top of the list of things that are important to them, but in Russia a career is seen as being less important. More than 70% of millennials from Argentina and Mexico find following their dreams as highly important. And 84% of Spanish millennials place a high importance on education, the highest figure in the study. Millennials in Russia, France and the United Arab Emirates place high importance on marriage and having a family. In the U.S. and Australia, being in a loving relationship is important, and for millennials in China, Argentina and Mexico, being in a relationship is less important than getting married.

Technology is important for millennials in all countries. The study finds “technology gives millennials the tool to keep control over their lives. It’s so pervasive that many claim they cannot function without it. Technology simplifies their lives, saves time and helps them communicate and entertain themselves and others. Social networks, games, mail and maps are the most popular apps used.”

The mantra of millennials, the study finds, is eight hours of work, eight hours of play and eight hours of rest.

The study offers marketers five suggestions to help brands get involved with millennials’ pursuit of happiness. They are: (1) humanize your brand; (2) create meaningful assets; (3) create purposeful value exchange; (4) orientate on user experience; and (5) share your customers’ stories.

To humanize their brand, it is suggested that marketers invite millennials to get involved with by developing a conversation with them. Creating meaningful assets means brands need to find ways to get millennial consumers to try their products to get feedback. Brands also need to show millennials why their products add value to their lives.

It is also important for brands to allow millennial consumers to interact with them across platforms and devices and to give them a way to share their experiences. And much of this is done without traditional advertising. “Brands like Google and Amazon have strong bonds with consumers without abstract concepts of advertising,” the study says.

The study finds that happy millennials are the best shoppers and prime targets for brands. “Happier millennials tend to be more involved in shopping, with 76% of them finding shopping an enjoyable relaxing activity.” Happy millennials also prefer to buy products from known brands, with 74% valuing quality over price.

The study also finds that millennials will be friends with brands on social networks if brands offer them something of value. That something includes personalized, targeted promotions and discounts. The more brands can individually court millennial consumers the better the potential results.

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