The Value of Shared Values

The Connection Between Boomers and Millennials

Ask Millennials which core values guide them and their answers range from family to environmentalism, self-actualization to living in the moment. If you compare these values to their Boomer parents, the results are strikingly similar. As youth, both generations are/were idealistic and independent. Both believe they can make a difference in the world. And, both demand relevancy and authenticity. The percentage of consumers who today buy products that are socially responsible because they align with their values is the same for both cohorts — 32%*. If you’re a Boomer, hopefully you’ll recall what your values were in your 20’s — what you stood for, what guided you, what you did to express your support. Marching and sit-ins for peace, experimenting with different ways to open your consciousness, cleaning the beaches after the oil spill, Black, Yellow, and Brown Power. Fast forward to today as you watch your children create social movements with a few clicks, like the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, “kick-starting” everything from scholarships for undocumented students and organizing national boycotts in support of same sex marriage.

What’s different today is the way causes can impact purchasing power. Millennials’ choices of what and how they purchase is the result of a continuing evolution as more consumers recognize that they are empowered to shop brands that align with their own values — and avoid those that don’t. Forty years ago, there were few social causes that connected to brands so the notion of shopping to support a cause was virtually unheard of. The action of standing up for something required more commitment and effort and mobilizing groups to take action was strenuous and time-consuming. Today, starting a petition to boycott a company or mobilizing support to protest a corporation’s labor practices is just a few clicks on a keyboard.

*iconoculture quant analysis 9/6/2012

Use Engagement to Build a Relationship

Common marketing theory states the building of a brand relationship happens over time, even among Millennials who are often labeled as impatient, self-absorbed, and entitled. Most consumers will tell you that they don’t want to be “sold to.” This is especially true for Millennials for whom the brand and product choices they make contribute to their identity and self image. Brands that provide new, robust, and relevant information are successful in creating engagement with them. Brands that tap into Millennials interests and values offer more dimension to the brand’ s relevance and contribute to the creation of a deep and lasting connection.

Authenticity is Timeless

Relevance, authenticity, and shared values are the foundation of any brand relationship with Millennials. First, the brand or product must be seen as “for me.” With access and demand for so much information, the purchase selections they make are quickly vetted through a filter that must result in the belief that “it reflects me and my lifestyle.” Second, the brand or product must be true to itself — not TRYING to be authentic to what they think is the consumer want, but authentic to the culture, reality, and heritage of the brand. And third, there must be an honest shared value between the consumer and the brand. The more apparent that shared value becomes, the stronger the brand connection.

Tom’s Shoes has established itself as the model of philanthropic capitalism, with it’s buy-one-give-one concept. Millennials embraced Tom’s for its concept and suddenly their view of the shoe style changed. These shoes weren’t name brand, or worn by celebrities, not hot or stylish, but they became that once the idea of making a difference through a simple purchase took hold. The statement made by wearing Toms trumped their plain, non-descript styling. Millennials first started “rocking” Toms because they embraced and supported both the purpose and the product. Interestingly, after time, Boomers began purchasing Toms as well and the brand garnered a dual target. Perhaps it is the affordable, simple, practical nature of the shoe that also began to attract X-ers and Boomers. Perhaps it’s the desire to wear clothing that is young and hip. More likely, it’s the Boomers innate need to express their social consciousness, to reconnect with the values that shaped their thinking and wish to instill in their children.

A Smarter Way to Connect and Build Loyalty

Similarly, Wells Fargo is succeeding in establishing the foundation for a strong and sustainable relationship with Millennials through it’s “Done” Campaign touting mobile banking. Let’s check the boxes. The product is relevant as it provides easy, quick, on-the-go banking — — just what Millennials expect and demand of their bank. The campaign acknowledges that Millennials are about so much more than “themselves” and the underlying reason to get things “Done” is so they can do other important things. It shows volunteering and service to community is inherent in their lifestyle and their values. Through #hashtaglunchbag, Wells Fargo found an effective way to engage a cause its audience values. This commercial depicts the story of a group of twenty-somethings who use the WF mobile banking feature to purchase food to make bag lunches and distribute to the homeless. It garnered over two million views on YouTube and was shared 1000 times over on social media.

Using this campaign, Wells Fargo was also able to re-enlist their Boomer customers and solidify loyalty by reigniting their sense of service and community. On social channels, as much as 30 percent of conversation came from those within the Boomer generation as they shared and engaged positively with the messaging. Wells Fargo recognized that tech-savvy Boomers also crave on-the-go mobile banking apps and will jump to competitors to get them. They’re fully engaged with social media and expect their bank to be as well.

Relevant and Sticky: The Ultimate Brand Goal

A core value shared between a consumer and a brand not only makes the brand relevant, it makes it sticky. And, when you find one that transcends generations, you have the foundation for long term success. Find something that makes them feel good about themselves and understand how that stimulates their behavior. Brands that offer more depth or substance and clearly communicates how and why they are relevant give Millennials reason to make them a part of their lives. And, more importantly, it gives them a reason to share, helping the brand to build a strong and loyal following.