AIM clients and friends have asked for information about how to market brands and products to Millennial consumers.  Here is some valuable information from AIM research and from Viacom, an organization which also conducts extensive research with Millennial consumers:

Q: How do Millennials differ from older consumers?

Millennials are the largest cohort in history — larger even than the Boomers. They have been groomed to be the ultimate consumers by their parents and marketers and there’s definitely fatigue, but they’re also the best at sniffing out what is not true.  Veracity is the key in all product and promotional efforts targeted at Millennials.

Q: What is the Millennials’ relationship with brands?

A: Brands are something to be skeptical of — guilty until proven awesome might be a good catch phrase, according to Colleen Fahey Rush, executive vice president, strategic insights and research for MTV Networks. That said, Millennials are most likely to align themselves and advocate for brands that they love because the brand has proven itself — this alignment is a form of self-expression — in Facebook or elsewhere.  Millennials have also rejuvenated their parents’ brands in the marketplace, a trend AIM calls “Ping Pong Branding.”  Examples of Ping Pong brands are Apple, Toyota and Burberry, brands that were popular when Boomers were young, abandoned by them, and then popularized by their Millennnial children in a newer, updated version. Consider the Toyota Prius and Apple’s i-products.

Q: How has the recession changed the value of a brand?

A: Brands that had great equity with Millennials at the start of the recession still have it — Apple, Nike, Target — as long as they continue to deliver and innovate. And, it’s a bonus if there is a legitimate cause built in. Categories without an innovative, Millennial-savvy brand have effectively commoditized for them, at least in terms of perception. Value is top of mind, especially for Millennials, 15 percent of whom are unemployed. The Great Recession has permanently shaped the way they think about money, products and brands.  AIM has been monitoring this change in behavior and believes that some of the attitudes will carry throughout life for the Millennials in much the same way that the Great Depression and World War II affected the “Greatest Generation.”

Q: How do Millennials shop?

A: Community — what we call “peer-ticipation”— plays a big part in how Millennials approach shopping; even if they go to a store alone, they’re in constant contact (by phone or mobile web) with their friends, asking for opinions and making decisions based on friends’ recommendations.  According to AIM research, Millennials not only consult the peers they know, but also fully research products online before buying.  Often the purchase itself is made online, but even if Millennials shop at Bricks-and-mortar stores, they do research online first.  And sometimes they use mobile devices and research online while standing in the store aisle.

Q: What part does the internet play in today’s shopping experience?

A: Brands need to have a strong online presence since that’s where a lot of research is done as well as the shopping. Brand’s sites need to be robust web sites that are clean design and easily navigable. As online interactions increasingly influence sales at offline stores, marketers and retailer are likely to better engage shoppers along the full path to purchase, rather than treating online and in-store interactions as silos.  In AIM research, Millennials cite the need for seamless transition from research to purchase.


(Editor’s note: Research from both primary and secondary sources from Albing International Marketing LLC and courtesy of Colleen Fahey Rush, executive vice president, strategic insights and research for MTV Networks (MTVN) and her staff across all of the network’s cutting-edge channels including Nickelodeon, VH1 and the venerable MTV.)

For additional information about Millennial consumers, visit AIM’s other blog, MILLENNIALS At HOME.