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3 Consumer Qualities That Are Uniquely Millennial

With a large online following and high level of engagement, brands like Nike and Vice might make capturing the attention of a millennials look easy, but it’s a science, says Thimon de Jong, founder of strategic foresight firm Whetston.

During an evening of future-focused seminars and panels at Calik Denim’s first Ever Evolving Talks in Amsterdam Tuesday, de Jong shared three ways millennial consumers are unlike any other generation and why it may be time for brands to break out of their comfort zones.

Emotions tell boatloads

By keying into millennials’ emotions, de Jong said brands can customize and personalize products, services and marketing communications.

“I have good news, because the millennial generation is the generation that is the most open when it comes to sharing personal information with you… and they will actually share information that is quite personal,” he said.

Expressing emotions and opinions is important to millennials. The generation, de Jong noted, grew up with companies, brands, restaurants and entertainment asking for their opinion, rating and approval.

The key, he added, is to measure emotions through one of the many available digital vessels. Take, for instance, Barcelona comedy club TeatreNeu, which charges customers per laugh. Through artificial intelligence, de Jong said a camera in front of each seat determines how many times the customer laughs during a show. The club charges the customer 20 euro cents per laugh.

“It’s targeting millennials and it is very, very successful,” he said. “And it’s coming to the world of shopping as well.”

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Whether it’s something as complex as SharePoint, a concept that brings micro LED screens with targeted ads to the store shelf, or as simple as the feedback kiosks—often seen at airports—which ask passersby to rank their experience by tapping a smiley or frown face, de Jong said brands and retailers are remiss not to implement these technologies.

“The question isn’t if we have emotion technology coming,” he said. “The question is how will you use this to court the millennial consumer.”

Don’t fail the trust fall

Millennials err on the side of caution. Trust in politics, media and academia is at an all-time low, de Jong said. The generation, however, is more inclined to trust a brand or retailer that is informal and personal in its communication and messaging.

“The kind of people [millennials] trust the most is people like themselves,” he added. “And this is one of the reasons that the millennial generation is a generation that trusts customer reviews online, more than all the other generations.”

De Jong said a whopping 90 percent of millennials trust online reviews as much as they trust a real friend, and that’s even with the rampant news that many online reviews are phony.

“That is quite a paradox towards the future,” he said. “That’s not sustainable. But if you want them to trust you, you have to be online, you have to be in the reviews and you have to make them as trustworthy as possible.”

Have substance

A good-looking product is not enough to woo a millennial. The generation craves products with purpose made by brands that stand for something meaningful.

When online media company Vice repositioned itself in 2016, it did its research and found that after music, its millennial-age readership valued content about the environment and social justice. It was a wakeup call, de Jong said. Overnight, the publication changed its direction and, in return, widened its audience and gained ad dollars.

Even global giants like Nike are going out on a limb to stand up for a cause. The brand’s recent campaign with former-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was criticized by President Trump and conservatives. However, the brand recovered after millennials shared the campaign across social media. In fact, Nike saw a sales uptick.

The message, de Jong said, was loud and clear: Nike was targeting the next generation of consumers and athletes.

“I can’t stress enough how fundamental the shift is,” he said. “Millennials want you to care. Ethics, ethics and more ethics.”