Do Millennials Really Care About Brand Authenticity?

Alex McCormick
Alex McCormick
06 / 12 / 2017 | Prodo Insights

A look into the role of authenticity in millennial marketingmannequin-2777963_960_720.jpg

As part of the millennial generation, I’ve always been cynical of the more traditional forms of advertising.

Radio shout-outs, billboards plastered with the face of Kylie Minogue and cheap perfume (#sorrynotsorry), and TV's Kellogs “it’s gonna taste great" boy were just a few of the irritants stemming from the more traditional forms of advertising.

As children of the digital age, we’re exposed to so much content on a daily basis that we naturally construct our own impression of authentic and inauthentic content. We gravitate towards what we consider to be the truth, so when deciding what to engage with, we’re generally inclined to side with what we consider to be authentic content. We don't want to be told, we want to be part of the conversation - it feels more authentic, and this is what millennial marketing should encompass.

The success of engageable online news, social media and the emergence of influencers highlights our intrinsic desire for conversation. We tend to resonate with this type of content as our ideals become more real and tangible. So how does social media feature?

On social media, having a consistent tone and style that followers find compelling will drive loyalty and engagement. If your brand’s voice aligns with consumers’ perception of your brand it feels more authentic which can, in turn, increase engagement.

Here are other ways you can boost engagement on social media:

- Thought leadership: Create conversations on social media through the people who work in your organisation. This will help to establish them as thought leaders.

- Transparency: Produce behind-the-scenes content via Snapchat and Instagram, providing insight into your company culture and daily operations.

- Relevance: Produce or transmit content that is relevant to millennials. Ensure such content aligns with their needs or goals. 

Social media, social media, social media

In 2017 Forbes revealed:

“47% of millennials say their purchase decisions are influenced by social media. For perspective, the figure is 19% across all other age groups. If a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer. They expect brands to not only be on social networks, but to engage them”

Interestingly, only 1% of millennials claim that a traditional ad influences them, the rest are like me, sceptical of traditional advertising. This tells us that marketers need to ditch the script and portray a more authentic image online and through social in order to connect with this consumership.

The smell of irony

The prominence of social networks has increased our exposure to what we, quite paradoxically, consider reality. We strive for flattering images of ourselves, our pets, our surroundings, all for the sake of reaction, or in other words, engagement. However, most of what we're exposed to on social platforms is just a small snippet of a wider context, a context that does not necessarily fit into the frame that's presented.

This can be typified by influencers, who function as the new tools of digital marketing - where economic or reputational incentives can muddy the waters of authenticity. Take YouTuber Lele Pons as an example: She instagrammed the image on the right, implying that she donated her hair to charity, but was later called out by a fan:You will never influence the world by being just like it! (2)In a way, social media facilitates a false reality - we only reveal what we intend to in the digital space. However, because of its social allure, the fact that we can engage with it, we accept it. We all love to look behind the curtains, even if what we see is staged.

So in essence, millennials care more about the perception of authenticity. In fact, engagement might be the more crucial element to consider in relation to millennial marketing. The rise of social and influencer marketing exemplifies how millennials prefer to be part of a brand’s conversation, as opposed to passive witnesses to an ad. By directly addressing this generation through personalities, narratives or unique aesthetics, brands are able to spark a lasting connection.