‘Idea Brands’ Will Win Big with Millennials: How To Attract Them

Posted by: Jeff Fromm

Millennials want to change the world. Who doesn’t? However, this generation born from 1977 to 2000 is often accused of passive insensitivity caused by their dependence on technology. This couldn’t be further from the truth according to Mike Swenson, Millennial consumer cause expert of Crossroads PR, part of KC-based Barkley.MikeSwenson

“While Boomers and Gen-X’ers took their causes and protests to the street, we see Millennials trying to make a difference in their own way,” says Swenson. “Millennials are finding ways to do good in their everyday lives by taking advantage of brands that align with their values.”

You cannot underestimate the fact that Millennials look for job opportunities and assignments that do good. They are also socially savvy consumers when it comes to their own buying decisions. Is it really a surprise that we see this group seeking out brands that offer something aside from the exchange of capital? A generation that has grown up multitasking naturally approaches cause the same way.

“Idea brands” like Tom’s Shoes and Warby Parker appeal to these Millennial Activists for several reasons.

  • They invite participation and co-creation.
  • They offer social value and align to a higher purpose.
  • They disrupt the status quo in ways that appeal to Millennials sensibilities.

 Participation and Co-Creation

We are living in the era of the Millennial inspired Participation Economy outlined in our book “Marketing to Millennials:  Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever.” As we explore in the book, the old definition of brand value is no longer the whole story. If you want to engage Millennials or older generations that are adopting a Millennial Mindset® you must find ways to include participatory benefits in the equation.

Driven by advancements in digital and mobile technology, Millennials want to be a part of the process. The type of participation Millennials want to engage in breaks into three types:

  1. Millennials want to co-create the products and services that you sell.
  2. Millennials want to co-create the customer journey or the customer experience.
  3. Millennials want to co-create the marketing – which goes beyond social media.

 Social Value and Higher Purpose

Part of this idea behind co-creating the consumer experience involves socialization and shareworthiness.

“These ‘idea brands’ ignite sharing. When Millennials feel that their purchase supports a cause, they are going to share with others encouraging more to join,” Swenson said.

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Shareworthiness is rooted in Millennials’ strong life theme of peer affirmation. According to Barkley research, 70 percent of Millennials say they are more excited about decisions they’ve made when their friends agree with them. We see this group socializing decisions and experiences, and they are rewarded by the recognition and feedback from their peer networks.


“While they might truly support the brand cause, that recognition from friends is a nice added bonus,” Swenson said.

Disruptive Schema

Millennials strive to be the first to discover something new and exciting. Brands that offer a new disruptive schema often appeal to this group. Looking at “idea brands” that support a cause, we see a shift from traditional retail transactions. There is added value when the consumer is able to walk away with more than the physical purchase.

“Millennials are willing to pay a modest premium when a brand’s values align with their own,” Swenson said.

While everyone else in a respective category might be doing things one way, Millennials gravitate towards the brands that reject the status quo and offer that added value.

About Jeff Fromm

Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at...See Jeff's full bio.