There is a lot of hype around millennials these days, and as a member of this generation, I find it bothersome. If it bothers me, I wonder how other generations feel about it. Sure, we may be different in some ways, but let’s get it straight: We millennials are not aliens!
As a millennial working in human resources, I hear a lot of myths about my generation, and I often think, “This can´t be true for all of us.” There are numerous consulting companies that claim to really know the millennial generation. They say we want a modern and diverse work environment without hierarchies, a feedback-orientated leadership culture, and a good work-life balance.
Well, guess what? From what I’ve read about millennials in leading publications like the Harvard Business Review, and the feedback I’ve seen in some of my own employee surveys, I believe other generations want these same things.
Here’s my perspective: I don’t really buy into the hype about millennials in all areas, but there is one where I believe we are distinguished from other generations. We care a lot about the purpose of a brand. In fact, a recent Cone Communications study found that more than nine out of every ten millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause.
Purpose-driven marketing – the hot topic for every generation
In the past few years, purpose-driven marketing has become one of the hot topics businesses need to focus on – not only in regard to millennials, but also for other generations.
Greg Ellis, former CEO and managing director of REA Group, said this about his company’s purpose: “This is what we’re doing for someone else – it is our philosophical heartbeat.” So the purpose of a brand is not about a company’s culture or how it wants to be in the future – it is how an organization shows a more personal and emotional face to its customers.
When communicating with customers on this level, nothing is more important than authenticity.
Millennials’ BS sniffer
“If your customers don’t view you as having a purpose, [your brand] doesn’t matter. It’s about placing authenticity at the heart of everything you do.” –Tom Rainsford, brand director at the mobile network company, giffgaff
It is not difficult to understand why authenticity is important when it comes to purpose-driven marketing. When a company claims to have a purpose that is completely different from what you would expect from it, customers get confused – and annoyed.
Nigel Gilbert, chief marketing and communications officer of TSB Bank, shared in a recent Marketing Week articlethat he thinks the most important thing around brand purpose is integrity. “If you believe in why you’re doing something, and not just starting an initiative to spin it, then it’s an incredibly powerful thing. But it can easily be misused, and it often is.”
The thing with purpose-driven marketing and millennials is that this generation is really sensitive as to whether a brand purpose is authentic or not. If millennials don’t buy your claimed purpose on the fly, not only are you throwing away a lot of money thrown for all of your marketing campaigns, but they might also get the wrong impression. For instance, they might think that you are trying to manipulate them to buy all of your products.
“Millennials have a really good BS sniffer. They know when you’re not being true. Just be truthful in advertising.” –Quinn Kilbury, senior brand director, Heineken
Marketing for aliens
Sure, there are plenty of valuable checklists on how to create good marketing campaigns for millennials. But for aliens – and yes, in the area of purpose-driven marketing, I think that we are aliens – nothing is more important than authenticity. Don’t claim a purpose for your brand that everyone knows is completely different from what customers think about you. Don’t be a fast food company that states that your purpose is to make people’s lives healthier when you don’t. Don’t be a luxury car company with the purpose of teaching the world to be modest.
One passionate example for authenticity in marketing is the vision and purpose of SAP. But first, think about it: Off the top of your head, how would you define the purpose of a global technology company? I had no idea how to define this when I started working for SAP. But when I saw our purpose statement—Run Simple to Improve People’s Lives—my first impression was not that this is a cheesy approach of a technology company. I saw a lot of passionate work —in areas such health and sustainability, for instance—on how SAP shows the world it really is improving people’s lives. Its purpose is clearly for our customers. And because of this deep-rooted purpose, I feel pride working for this company.
The purpose of your brand is not about your product. It is about authentically demonstrating what you are passionate about and why you matter to the world. And – with a look at your future customers (us aliens) – remember that we really care about the world, and we’ll be looking for your purpose.
This article originally appeared on Digitalist Magazine, in the Improving Lives section. See here.