Posted on March 14, 2018 | By Martin Lindstrom

Want To Find Millennials’ Wallets? Reach For Their Hearts

Price is important, but no demographic has ever been as invested in a brand’s message.


Like it or not, all of us constantly engage in behavior for which we have no logical or clear-cut explanation. This is truer than ever before in our stressed-out, technologically overwired world, where new of terrorist threats, political sabre-rattling, fires, earthquakes, floods, violence, and assorted other disasters pelt us from the moment we turn on the daily news to the time we go to bed. The more stress we’re under, the more frightened and insecure we feel — and the more irrationally we tend to behave.

Sounds like a pretty good summary of the last year or two, right? I actually wrote that paragraph in 2008 in Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy.

Ten years ago the world was an entirely different place. Most of us didn’t have the slightest clue we’d land here, in 2018, in a more chaotic world than ever before. The news cycle is even more rapid-fire, and it can feel almost impossible to keep up with the daily scandals, disasters, and political explosions both domestic and global.

We’re also more attached to our digital tools than ever. Millennials in particular are a generation that’s digitally connected from the moment they wake up to the final phone check before falling asleep. They’re constantly receiving news alerts on their phones, scrolling through Twitter and Facebook, reading and texting and refreshing all day long. Sit in a room of millennials when a New York Times alert pops up, and you’ll see the wave of frustration and stress firsthand — and this is generally happening multiple times a day now.

This barrage of news and continuous connection has led to an entire generation that is over-stressed. But counterintuitively, younger consumers are also looking to brands to join in the conversation.

Why? There’s relief in supporting brands they believe promise to make things a little bit better. Whether that’s donating to Planned Parenthood when states begin enforcing stricter rules on women’s healthcare or flying Delta when they cut ties with the NRA, this is a group of people that act on feeling. They also control the digital conversation – so they are actually in control of a brand’s image.

This creates an interesting playing field for brands — or really more of a minefield – when it comes down to it. One wrong step and your company’s name is the talk of the Twittersphere. One badly-timed or tone-deaf commercial can wreck a brand’s image for months. So, what to do about this ever-shifting political landscape? How can you avoid a Pepsi-style misstep?

Luckily, you don’t need a crystal ball to be successful. No one is expecting your company to know what Trump will post tomorrow. But brands do need to be genuine and clear in their intentions, with a stance that fits the company and the ideals of predominately progressive millennials. For instance:

  • Embrace the environmental- Patagonia did this very successfully just last year.
  • Encourage social moments – like Pizza Hut has with their pizza box movie projector and solar eclipse hack.
  • Treat your employees like royalty – brands with a reputation for honoring employees like Costco, Starbucks, and Google have a leg up.
  • Support small businesses – Chipotle’s local grower initiative holds a lot of cache with this audience.
  • Help train women entrepreneurs and create a more diverse company culture
  • Encourage body positivity – Many companies like Aerie have stopped airbrushing models and in the wake of #metoo, more are following suit.

Whatever mission you pick needs to tap into the political climate of today in some meaningful way and show real steps toward action. Millennials purchasing power is just beginning and their ideals aren’t likely to change. Brands that don’t have a mission that aligns with them are risking a real decline in the years to come. Whether you’re a local business or a massive corporation, your brand’s mission is more important than ever.

What can you do so that when the next news alert pops up, you’re the brand people turn to in order to feel better?

Posted in: Insights

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