The word is bound to come up when discussing anything having to do with brands and consumers.
Take, for example, the recent Ogilvy Exchange panel discussion “Who’s The Boss? Consumers or Brands?”, held at the agency’s offices in Washington, D.C. Moderator Sarah Halzak of the Washington Post introduced the word in her first question, and panelists from the National Retail Federation, CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights, and Ogilvy Digital ran with it for the entire discussion, citing their own formal research and extensive experience working with brands.
Brand experts like the Ogilvy Exchange panelists are focused on the millennial generation for good reasons:
1. An individual’s overall spending peaks around age 50. Though definitions vary depending on the source, the term millennial generally refers to those who are currently in their 20s to mid-30s. If brands can establish a relationship with millennials now, they can ride the generation’s spending wave over the next 2 to 3 decades to its peak – even as baby boomers, many of whom have already entered their 60s, begin to adopt increasingly thrifty spending habits.
2. Furthermore, as the Pew Research Center reported, “this year, the Millennial generation is projected to surpass the outsized Baby Boom generation as the nation’s largest living generation”. So, the millennial generation is already a sizable swath of the market for brands.
3. All millennials came-of-age using computers; many also grew up using social media and smart phones. They are also more racially diverse than previous generations and either watched parents go through the financial crisis or experienced it for themselves at the beginning of their careers (or both). These factors influence the relationship that millennials have with brands, and brands looking to engage members of this generation know that understanding what these factors mean and how they interact is critical.
Three Insights Into the Millennial Mind
While the panelists shared many anecdotes and insights about millennials in relation to brands, here are the three that I think are the most significant, especially in relation to the use of new gTLDs:
Delivering an Experience: Millennials don’t want to just buy a widget. They want an experience around or involving the widget. Both smartphones and social media help brands to deliver that experience at a personal level.
Authenticity Online: Millennials, especially younger millennials, expect brands on social media to behave like their other connections on social media – that is, as a person. And not just any person, but a sincere person who has values and acts on those values, as perhaps demonstrated by a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaign.
Earned Loyalty: Millennials have a lot of choices when it comes to brands, and brands won’t earn any loyalty from this generation without establishing and maintaining trust. Of course, trust can be difficult to maintain in a world where cybercriminals attack brands that rely heavily on online transactions, such as Home Depot and Target.
How Can Brands Use New gTLDs to Engage Millennials?
Given what we know about millennials in relation to what we know about gTLDs, brands can consider the following:
- As the tech-savvy millennial catches on to the fact that only legitimate content is allowed within a .BRAND, they’ll be less likely to fall prey to phishing attempts, mistakenly purchase counterfeit goods, or act on unreliable information. This security will increase trust and help to build brand loyalty, especially for e-commerce and financial service brands (check out the campaigns recently launched by BNP Paribas on .BNPPARIBAS and the Barclays Group announcement about .BARCLAYS and .BARCLAYCARD).
- Brands that own and operate their own .BRAND can provide innovative and seamless experiences by consolidating the purchasing process, loyalty programs, and customer support services within their gTLD. Some brands are in a position to create entire worlds within their gTLD, hosting proprietary engagement platforms that allow loyal customers and brand ambassadors to have their own domain names within a brand.
- As we mentioned on a recent webinar, “3 Keys to Successful Domain Name Management in 2015”, open new gTLDs such as .FOUNDATION and .GREEN represent opportunities for a brand, whether or not it applied for its own gTLD, to highlight corporate social responsibility campaigns. For two examples, visit generalmotors.GREEN and bornthisway.FOUNDATION (the site for Lady Gaga’s non-profit organization).
Of the three considerations outlined above, FairWinds CEO Nao Matsukata asserts that the most powerful is the first, trust.
“If trust is important to millennials, then major brands that own their .BRAND have a new tool at their disposal. Trust – beyond any other factor – is what distinguishes a new gTLD from a .COM. An Internet user knows that when they go to a .BRAND site, the site belongs to that brand. In an age of information overload, consumers want a secure and trusted place.”
Brands are just beginning to use new gTLDs, and exactly how new gTLDs will change the relationship between consumers and brands is anyone’s guess. One thing is certain, though: brands will factor millennials heavily into their plans.
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