MBPT Spotlight: Study Refutes Myths About Millennials, Offers Insight Into Their Brand Loyalty

Why do millennials adopt brands? How do brands become their favorites? What media do they prefer to connect with brands? These are some of the questions that a new study by Missouri-based independent digital ad agency Moosylvania sheds some light on.

“This is one elusive target market, so marketers need to learn as much as they can before investing in social media or cookie-cutter interactive marketing,” says the agency’s founder and CEO Norty Cohen, whose clients include Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Grey Goose, Alamo, Bacardi, Emerson, PayPal, Spectrum Brands and Costa Farms, among others.

“For years, advertising served the role of reassurance and endorsement,” Cohen says. “That role has changed tremendously. Our job as marketers is to understand how dynamically the connectivity of the next generation of consumer is evolving.”

The study, titled “Is Your Strategy Showing? Truth, Justice and the Millennial Way,” surveyed 1,000 millennials age 13-33 (40% 13-23, 60% 24-33) with 52% male, 48% female and with geographic diversity. A majority, 56%, had incomes of less than $50,000, with another 22% in the $50,000-$75,000 range; 12% had incomes of $75,000-$99,000; and 10% had incomes over $99,000.

They were asked questions about their beliefs concerning the environment, their community and what they like to read. They were asked with whom they live, and to describe their shopping patterns and their purchasing decisions. They were asked to write in, unaided, their top three favorite brands from a list of 3,000. They were asked how they keep connected, what media platforms they use and how they feel about receiving messages from brands. And they were asked about brand loyalty.

In a nutshell, the millennials in this survey were found to have high self-esteem and a great deal of confidence about how they live their lives. They were found to be heavy users of social media and freely accepting of brand messages from marketers. They were found to be brand loyal once they adopt that brand. And out of the top 58 brands with five or more mentions in their write-in listing, 11 retailers were mentioned, but no beer brands made the list.

One particularly important statistic for marketers—40% of the millennials in the survey said they have signed up to receive emails from their favorite brands.

Here are some myths about millennials the survey found: (1) millennials are all hipsters; (2) millennials purchase on a whim; (3) millennials are independent buyers; (4) marketers can quickly buy a millennial’s love.

The study also found that millennials are not “angst-filled, skinny-jeans-wearing, side-swept bangs-sporting hipsters,” but instead are people that value transparency over trends and don’t identify with any one label.

The brands most listed as their favorites were Apple (by 7.5% of respondents); Samsung (4.8%), Nike (4.5%) and Sony (4.1%). Among the top 58 brands with five or more mentions when respondents were asked to list their favorite were 11 retailers, including Target, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, Aeropostale, Banana Republic, Gap, Hollister, H&M, Forever 21, Kroger and Sephora.

Other brands making the favorites list were adidas, Amazon, Converse, Coca-Cola, Dell, Dove, Dr Pepper, Ford, Google, Jeep, Hewlett-Packard, Michael Kors, LG, Kraft, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, Mountain Dew, Nintendo, Puma, Tide, Subaru, Toshiba, Under Armour, Victoria’s Secret, Verizon, Pepsi and Xbox, among others.

How do they advocate their favorite brands? Among those surveyed, 59% like them on Facebook; 57% tell their friends about them; 44% show them off to friends; and 20% follow them on Twitter.

Purchasing Power

As far as shopping patterns, 54% of the millennials surveyed shop in-store and 48% shop online. In terms of brand loyalty, 36% say they purchase their favorite brands “far more” than other brands in the same category.

How do millennials discover brands? Facebook is pretty much the go-to site for doing that, with 51% listing it as the place where they head for product discovery. Some 45% also get brand information from friends or family. And television commercials are still a solid way to reach millennials, with 36% saying they discover products and brands via TV spots. In-store viewing is next as a way to discover new products or brands, with 32% listing that as their means, followed by 30% who mentioned brand websites.

Online advertising as a means of informing millennials about new brands and products was mentioned by only 24% of respondents, followed by 18% who cited Twitter, 15% who mentioned blogs and just 14% who cited magazine ads.

While 53% of millennials in the survey say they shop alone, 40% say they also shop with a friend and 14% say they shop with groups of friends. And 22% say that when they are in a store, they often contact friends via their smartphones either by calling, texting or using some other form of social media to get advice.

What types of ads resonate with millennials? Well, 55% said rather than advertising, they would prefer going to a store and seeing or touching a product or brand. And 43% said recommendations from family and friends are most important. Written reviews were listed by 33% as being important when deciding on what brand to buy, 31% said social media was a source of brand information for them and 20% listed video reviews and brand emails, while 18% listed news articles about brands.

Don’t Pay to Play

What doesn’t resonate as much for millennials online are paid endorsements, disliked by 23%; ads on Twitter were disliked by 20%; paid search ads (18%); paid video ads (17%); ads on Facebook (17%); ads on YouTube (16%); brand-sponsored blogs (16%); and non-brand blogs (12%) also made that list.

“As marketers, we need to do our research before executing any kind of brand or product plan that includes marketing to millennials,” says Moosylvania’s Cohen. “There is definitely a unique consumer out there looking for you. You just have to know how to make that connection stick. Remember, millennials grew up reading, thinking, evaluating and discovering whatever they want online, especially reassurance. And now they walk around with it and check it 150 times a day on their phones. They have advanced BS filters instilled in them. Be honest, be authentic and follow through. We believe the ultimate goal for our clients is to cross the fine line from marketing to friendship.”