What opportunities exist for brands that want to speak to Millennials? Seeking to help Pan-European clients engage in better conversations on brand, Be Viacom recently conducted research to answer this question.

The goal was to gain a deeper understanding of four key areas of opportunity that emerged from VIMN’s ‘The Next Normal’ and illustrate how brands can communicate more effectively with young people. The research had two components: a May 2013 quantitative survey of over 500 respondents aged 15 to 35 across five European markets (UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, and France), as well as July 2013 online qualitative bulletin boards featuring 16-30 year olds in the UK and Germany.

Here are key insights on those four areas of opportunity:

Brand Aid: The opportunity to enable, upskill, and support Millennials on their journey

This opportunity emerged from the macro Millennial trend of ‘Winning, Not Whining.’

  • Millennials are facing up to reality with pragmatism, and preparing themselves for the future whilst looking for a helping hand

Nearly 9 out of 10 Millennials want help preparing themselves for the job market.

Three key elements:

  • Experiencing – gaining industry experience, understanding required skills, meeting key people
  • Softer skills – building confidence, public speaking, networking skills
  • Functional – interviewing, CV writing

When offered choices of brand help, ‘experience + money’ is ideal – but if money is not on offer, they prefer involvement in developing products rather than more ‘passive’ experience

Market differences and nuances could make Pan-European brand campaigns challenging.

  • Brand Aid is most appealing in the UK, France, Italy, and Spain – where the economic crisis has been deepest
  • Attitudes toward careers/employment are different in Germany than in the UK – there is a need for help in Germany, but successful programmes would likely look different

Love Brands: The opportunity to deliver authentic experiences based on audience passion point

This opportunity comes from the macro Millennial trend of ‘Seeking Meaning.’

  • Millennials are recalibrating what matters to them and seeking more out of life, so they’re cynical about spin and passionate about things that are real/authentic

In a brand context, love can be difficult to define. Certain consumer attitudes and behaviors can be construed as elements of love – but may instead be indicators of other things.

  • Interacting – reflects buzz and frequency of use; the more Millennials interact with a brand, the more likely they are to recommend it
  • Recommending – tech/social media/sports brands are most likely to get positive recommendations because they’re top-of-mind and provide relevant buzz
  • Following – need to keep up to date, seen as the coolest brand, favorite within the category, promotions, getting the latest news
  • Admiring – functional rather than emotional; about what a brand does, not what it says (helps with personal issues, uniqueness, reliability, great customer service)

So what are elements of love? Fostering self-expression, creating great products, and risk-taking.

  • Self-expression – facilitating genuine personal expression makes a difference in everyday life, forming an attachment and closer relationship
  • Creating great new products – products/features consumers want to own, learn about, play with, share
  • Taking risks – must be done for the right reasons and ideally in tune with Millennial values/attitudes/preferences (note: while this was not reported by survey respondents, Be Viacom believes from internal analysis that this is an emerging ‘love’ element)

Brand as Family: The opportunity for brands to facilitate close connections and personal interactions

This opportunity is rooted in the macro Millennial trend of ‘Trust Networks.’

  • Millennials’ trust levels are falling and they’re focusing more narrowly on smaller, closer networks of family, friends and communities

Trust is the starting point for a closer relationship – and it’s not just a soft concept. It comes from a brand proving on harder metrics, too.

Elements of trust:

  • Reliability – on time and working
  • Feedback – customer reviews
  • Value for money – getting a great deal
  • Long-standing – credibility
  • Involvement – facilitating interaction

Once trust is established, Brand as Family can be expressed through connection – bringing people together or touching them at a deeper level.

How brands can foster connection:

  • Family connector – bringing a family together or providing shared memories for them
  • Trust – providing a service that is a surrogate parent/role model or closer to the truth
  • Belonging – relationship with audience based on shared values and belonging
  • Brand New: The opportunity for brands to provide inspirational glocal content and experiences

This opportunity is rooted in the macro Millennial trend of ‘Open Source.’

  • Millennials are open-minded and thrive on change and the new – embracing flexibility in a complex world and taking a real interest in local and global issues

The Millennial world of the new = more active and multi-platform media consumption, inspiration from a wide range of sources, and personal areas of interest that reflect life-stage and income.

  • The media day – high activity causes insatiable appetite for the ‘new,’ use of social media and second screening so TV = ‘downtime,’ multi-platform social conversations
  • Inspiration – comes from wide range of media, as well as family, friends, and word of mouth; much opportunity for brands to influence
  • Interest areas – top interests are media and news (especially global), travel experiences, music, nightlife

Offering new things is not enough to be taken seriously. While most brands are seen as ‘solid nd reliable,’ the holy grail of ‘unique, exciting and inspirational’ is harder to achieve (especially given how Millennials define these).

  • Key elements of unique: a) a real experience, b) recommended by someone I trust and c) transparent
  • Excitement tends to be concentrated in brands that are constantly evolving – tech, media, fashion, sports
  • Inspiration means user-generated and home-grown content on YouTube/blogs where fans can participate