Millennials seem to mesmerize (or mystify) marketers in a 1001 ways, not the least of which is in the matter of brand trust. But I think a lot of people are confusing “brand trust” and “brand transaction,” which is to say that for this group of young people (born 1980-1995) it may not be so much a matter of believing a brand promise as accepting a “brand bribe.”
A whitepaper released just last week – combining studies from Edelman PR, Pew Research and others – got me thinking about this. Apparently 8 in 10 Millennials report having taken action on behalf of a trusted brand. My question is… have they taken action on behalf of the brand or have they simply accepted an offer from a brand? And if the latter is true, is the reassurance of trust or the enrichment of transaction the true motivator? In a short-term business sense (and is there any other these days?), one may not be better than the other, as they may both lead to the holy grail of repeat purchase, but I think marketers need to understand and observe the difference.
Brand Loyalty vs. Brand Currency
Ideally, brand trust engenders loyalty, the kind that can bridge gaps of negative experience and keep consumers connected to a favored brand long-term (as a number of articles have noted, Toyota is the latest, and perhaps most perversely impressive, example of this). Brand transaction, like any transactionally-based relationship, engenders not loyalty but, rather, only currency – that is, the presence and importance of a consumer’s relationship with a brand is only as current as the presence and importance of the latest exchange of value.
What Has Your Brand Done For Me Lately?
Of course, brand transactions can be very important. Like any classic direct mail offer, they get people to act. But, like those same offers of immediate, and limited, value, they are most useful as initiators of brand interaction but limited as shapers and solidifiers of brand loyalty. In fact, this latest marketing survey typifies millennials as “brand loyal in a way that brands and services crave, yet with a what- have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude they fear.” Which to me isn’t trust-based loyalty at all, but an “only-as-good-as-your-last-gimme” kind of relationship.
Turning Millennial Momentum into Lifetime Customers
And that brings me to the cautionary note for all brands banking on Millennial money. While Millennials are defined by (and defining) this new era, they are also inevitably life-stage bound.. that is, if they are lucky, they will grow older, take on the limits, responsibilities, disappointments and even traditional power that can come with age – and that will have them relating to brands not completely unlike older age groups do now. All of which means that, while you can stoke the fires of brand lust with Millennials via offers, promotions, entertainment and myriad incentives, marketers looking for a long-term consumer commitment will be wise to look toward communicating and delivering more lasting brand core brand values. And to do that, they’ll still need to identify their core brand truth, communicate it effectively and deliver on it daily.
PS: Speaking of brand transactions, whether you are a Millennial or not, you can get a free $5 Starbucks coffee card for being one of the first ten people to comment on this post.