In a post-truth world, brands with clear values are standing out, especially to millennial consumers. Values matter–media headlines are exploding with details of boycotts that are causing retailers to jettison products from their stores, for example. Buyers are aligning with brands they believe in and showing their support by how they spend their money. For millennials, a group with $200 billion in spending power and growing, the influence of values on purchase is critical.
For small businesses, the call-to-action is this: Be about your values and showcase them in your marketing and messaging. Which values matter the most to millennials, and how can you highlight these effectively to better connect with customers?
Every brand is encouraged to be authentic, but it’s a marketing buzzword which is loosely defined and leaves many marketers asking what it really means. An authentic brand is one that drops the hard sell and, instead, uses its unique passion, experience, and understanding of customers to forge a relationship with its audience. And it works, as shown by an AdAge report which found that 63 percent of customers will buy from an authentic brand.
Small businesses may even have an advantage in the authenticity space. The Economist reported that half of Americans trust small businesses to do the right thing. So how do you convey that you’re authentic?
Give your brand voice personality: Authenticity means having a clear personality which is relatable, consistent, and comes through in all your interactions. From a social media company that’s sparkly and engaging like a friend, or a bank that’s conservative and speaks like a trusted advisor, your voice needs to connect to the image you’re promoting and your customers’ expectations.
Tell the story of how you were founded: Did your brand arise from one person’s passion or from solving a problem that affected your team personally? Telling your origin story helps provide authentic brand credibility and makes it easier to connect with millennials. Use video, social media, and relatable content and bios to help humanize the people behind your company.
Explore the process of how your products are made and sourced: Millennials want to understand how products are made and sourced. Understanding the story behind coffee beans grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica and then lovingly roasted in a San Francisco coffee house brings your product to life. It differentiates it. Find angles related to product design, any craft or artisanal elements, or components with a unique journey to the end product.
2. Transparency and sustainability
The kind of impact you have on society and the environment matters. Millennials pay attention to the broader impacts brands have, and they support companies that do social good through their sale. A study from Deloitte found that 87 percent of Millennials think businesses should be evaluated on more than financial performance. How you treat your employees matters. The impact you have on the environment is important. The ways you give back to the community capture millennials’ attention. This is a generation that wants their purchases to have a bigger impact on society. Areas to explore include:
- Do you pay above the minimum wage, hire veterans, or have other policies which are interesting and progressive? Consider all the press generated by the company that decided to pay all employees a $70,000 salary.
- What’s your environmental impact? Possibilities here range from buying carbon credits to offset your operations, to choosing recycled packaging for your products.
- Do you support your community? For example, do you give a percentage of profits to a cause that aligns with your audience’s interests? If not, it may be time to consider a campaign.
Highlight these areas in your messaging. They matter.
Research from USC found that 85 percent of millennials surveyed were more likely to make a purchase which was personalized to their interests. Millennials want products, services, experiences, and brand interactions that resonate with their lifestyle and needs. It’s not just important for driving one purchase, either. It’s critical for turning millennials into repeat buyers. Personalization drives brand loyalty for 52 percent of millennials, according to one study.
By taking the time to really understand who your customers are and keep your marketing and messaging tightly targeted to them, you’re more likely to break through the noise and really capture their interest. How can a small business bridge the gap between simple steps—like using a buyer’s name in communications—and the sophisticated and personalized recommendations of a retailer like Amazon? Focus on a few things.
Do your homework: Personalization starts with knowing your customers. Look at your website and marketing analytics. Talk to your customers. Conduct a survey. Try to put together profiles of the different key customers you serve, and think about the specific marketing, experiences, and products they want to see.
Segment your marketing by profile: A company selling fashion to millennials could be targeting high-profile single urban men and rural fathers of three. Each group is likely to have different needs—even if they’re buying the same product. A pair of khakis for the urban men could be all about going effortlessly from the office to a date, while dads could be more focused on looking sharp for a special occasion. Consider whether dividing your email marketing lists along different segment lines could help you better speak to what your customers need.
Try small, targeted promotions: If your company’s data shows that everyone who has purchased a specific book often goes on to sign up for a related course, that’s the basis for a specific and effective promotion. Thinking of your marketing campaigns at this level of personalization, and asking how you can create the highest level of relevance, will increase your performance.
For millennials, who you are as a brand matters, and building trust starts with defining clear values and showcasing them in your marketing. Keep it relevant, transparent, and authentic, and you’ll have customers lining up to connect with your brand.