According to Dr. Dimitrios Tsivridos, a consumer psychologist at University College in London, millennials are “perhaps the most skeptical group of consumers”. In fact, research shows that only 1% of them are influenced by ads to make a purchase. They value authenticity over conformity, exclusivity over mass production, and sub-culture over corporate culture. The underlying core value of this entrepreneurial DIY generation is self-ownership, and companies that recognize this are achieving mad success.
Millennials view urban subcultures as being founded on passion rather than money, which for them equals authenticity. Some of the most popular streetwear is rooted in skate culture. The underground art culture, which includes graffiti, was further popularized by anonymous artist Banksy’s film, Exit Through the Gift Shop.
Authenticity is so important that when Dr. Martens commissioned artwork to be painted in Stokes Croft, Bristol, a place popular with millennials, it was criticized as being at odds with the spirit of non-corporate authenticity associated with that location.
One critic commented that “Such acts are perceived by millennial customers to be too obvious, and very much against the ethos of graffiti culture, which still holds elements of the anti-establishment movement and believes in artistic expression.”
Supreme is a prime example of how a company can harness the desire of millennials to express their individuality. Musa Ali, a collector of their streetwear, says that “In some regards, what makes people want to buy Supreme is the competitive, social aspect—to be able to go out in public and feel like you’re less likely to be wearing clothes that everyone else is wearing.”
While mass production may help keep prices low, millennials are willing to pay more for one-of-a-kind items. Judging by the success of Supreme’s limited edition clothing sales, they are not only willing to pay more but to stand in line overnight– or even miss work if necessary, to have the opportunity to buy them.
One of the hallmarks of subcultural activities is that many of them are free of charge. That’s important to millennials, who are often saddled with school loans even as they are willing to work part-time in jobs they feel make a positive difference in the world.
Streetwear offers millennials a way to connect with others who share their cultural passions. A simple t-shirt can serve as a social statement about their personal priorities, interests, and activities. Jonathan Gabay, author of Brand Psychology: Consumer Perceptions, Corporate Reputations, says that companies like Supreme understand the fear of being viewed as existing in a false reality. In the case of millennials, too often, that means corporate reality.
In a 2015 article, Forbes revealed that according to research, 62% of millennials were more likely to become loyal to brands that engage with them on social networks. Rather than one-size-fits-all marketing, millennials want the transparency that comes with personal relationships built on trust. More than any other generation, they want to deal with real humans and not faceless corporations.
Having grown up in an age of social media in an economy dominated by an economic crisis, their definition of value includes personal interaction. Companies that work towards providing that value are proving to be more successful than those who take a bottom-line approach.
Other forms of engagement popular with millennials include the creation of community and gamification. Fitbit is a good example of how a company can profit by encouraging customers to form both online and offline communities. In fact, at one point, there was concern that their customers were sharing too much personal information with one another, so modifications had to be made.
Ray Wood of LockedOn creates community by using what he calls the R.E.D. approach. This approach focuses on comprehensive customer support. Customers themselves provide an answer to questions asked by new users. Using a combination of user-generated FAQs and educational videos is a great way to guarantee that your millennial customers feel adequately engaged in the consumer process.
While marketing to millennials can be a challenge, the good news is that once you’ve succeeded in gaining them as customers, they are likely to be loyal ones. Statistics show that on average, loyal customers are worth approximately ten times as much as their first purchase. They’re also estimated to spend 67% more over the course of three years than in the first six months. There have never been more channels of communication available to engage customers, and millennials want companies to be as creative as they are in using them.