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David Mills
By David Mills on February 24, 2020

Can You Pass the Millennial Reality Test

Millennials have a nose for what’s authentic, how is your brand story doing?

Millennials are the emerging consumer powerhouse - $600 million in 2019. Their values come through loud and clear in how they shop and what they buy. One value you need to know about is their strong preference for authenticity. It impacts the way they see your business.

90% of millennials say that brand authenticity is important to them. They prefer the “real and organic” over the “perfect and packaged.” They are seeing your business or nonprofit brand through that unique lense - and it creates a bigger impact than you might think. Their reaction can range from mild-distaste all the way to “this is obviously not for me,” and immediate departure from the website or other collateral. We've interviewed millennials who took one look at a website and concluded they'd never return.

57% say that less than half of business branding is authentic.

Of course, authenticity is in the eye of the beholder. What looks real to the mother of an urban executive in the northeast, may not ring true in California suburbs or a Southern metro. Your brand has to fit your customer's version of authenticity.

How to know if your business brand looks authentic

There are some easy ways to tell if your brand will pass the millennial “realness test.” 

1. The simplest way is to simply ask them. If business growth is important to you, then the millennials you want to hear from are those who are prospects or shoppers.  

2. Do an image check. Check your website, emails and print materials. If you’re using stock photography or “perfect pictures” in these locations, then millennials’ alarm bells are probably going off. Nationally, 70% of people are easily able to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s too perfect.

3. Compare and contrast. See how your brand stacks up against the most popular millennial shopping, blogging and social media influencers. If your materials look like they are from another century or planet, then it may be time to rethink your brand approach.

4. Remember if you aren't a millennial, you simply don't see things in the same light. The worst possible criteria for evaluating imagery and websites, is from a single generationally distant perspective.


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Upgrade from a Brand to a Brand Story

One way to address branding challenges is to upgrade your existing brand to a brand story.

A brand story is the most effective form of branding. It steps way beyond the flat and forgettable reliance upon just logo, colors and a few graphic elements and moves you into position for what sticks in the human hardwiring for storytelling. Brand stories are the best way to increase the impact of both marketing and sales, because it speaks right to the authenticity issue by aligning your brand with your millennial customers.

Brand stories demonstrate values

Your brand story is how you SHOW what your values are. Values stated are not the same as values lived out. 64% of consumers are now identified as “belief-driven.” That means that having a brand story that demonstrates what we believe and how we live it out matters. In fact, what you stand for drives buying decisions just as much as what you actually offer, according to credible research by Edelman. And what’s more, what you stand for will actually create more buzz than what you actually offer.

Brand stories that show your values are not simplistic single storylines, nor do they rely upon testimonials on your website or materials. People really don’t trust these website testimonial placements much, unless they personally know the person who gave the testimonial, because they know that you’ll only post the ones that put the business in a favorable light. They prefer hearing those stories in social media or in person.

Build Brand Storytelling into Your Marketing Plan

There is a strong argument that an effective and strategic marketing plan will always include Brand Story elements. It’s very difficult to build an effective plan without including this element. Without Brand Story as the heart of a marketing plan you’ve got to work extra hard to get people’s attention, and you risk falling back into contrived or inauthentic approaches. 

If you are building or refining a marketing plan, it’s a good time to incorporate a fresh look at your brand story.

Why does marketing keep you invisible?

Published by David Mills February 24, 2020
David Mills