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March 11, 2016

Millennials, born from 1977-1995, make up 25% of the population in the U.S. with 80 million members and more than $200 billion in annual buying power. [Source: Barkely Millennial Research] Its no wonder companies are competing for their attention and loyalty.

There are many studies and reports about what millennials care about and how to win their attention and build lasting relationships with them. While many traits were mentioned over and over again, what always seemed to rise to the top is the fact that millennials are drawn to brands that are authentic, that align with their values, are socially conscious, transparent and provide quality products and services.

Millennials care about causes. They prefer to engage with companies that support causes even if it means paying more for those companies products. They believe that its more impactful to work with larger corporations to solve social issues than it is to contribute on their own. They are savvy about spotting authenticity, however, and cannot be fooled by disingenuous cause marketing.

Heres a closer look at two brands that are winning with millennialsApple and Nike. Both companies are rated consistently as the top two brands millennials like and both demonstrate key attributes that millennials value.

Apple, ranked as the number one brand of choice by millennials, stands for innovation in its design, technology and the experience it delivers. Here are examples of a few traits that make millennials so devoted to the Apple brand.

  • Innovation: Apple is widely considered the number one innovative company in the world. Apples iPhones, iPads, and Macbooks are innovative, useful and beautiful. And Apple continues to make headlines with new products like the Apple Watch.
  • Emotional engagement: The Apple brand inspires an almost a cult-like love for the company and its products. People are willing to stand around in long lines to be one of the first to buy a new product. Steve Jobs passion about Apple products earned Apple a huge, loyal following. It was authentic, contagious and true to the Apple mission: Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings. Apple has remained true to their mission, further strengthening brand loyalty with their customer base. At the Genius Bars, Apple invites consumers to co-create learning experiences with their young, tech-savvy associates, building deeper engagement and connection. The passion and dedication that goes into making Apple products rings true with millennials and makes them fiercely loyal customers.
  • Commitment to solving social issues: Millennials care about health and they care about making a difference in the world. Apples ResearchKit is new digital tool that appeals to both of those goals. ResearchKit is an open source software framework that enables researchers and developers to create apps that help transform medicine. It enables people to provide researchers with new types of health data on a larger scale than ever before possible through iPhones and Apple Watches. Participants can also track their own data and see correlations between health symptoms and daily activities such as exercise and diet. ResearchKit gives everyone with an iPhone or Apple Watch the opportunity to play a part in advancing medical research
  • Corporate social responsibility: Apple, like many companies in the consumer electronic industry, faces challenging issues around labor and human rights with in the way they manage their workforces in other countries. Apple has addressed and continues to address their social responsibility openly and honesty, by spending time in all of their factories and conducting audits to ensure all of their workers have safe and ethical working conditions.

Nike, ranked as the number two brand of choice for millennials, demonstrated their commitment to millennials by sharing their vision and seeking feedback from them about what they were doing well and where they could improve. They engaged in an open, honest conversation with millennials, listening and acting on the advice they received. Their vision became a truly shared vision and helped Nike build a committed and loyal customer base. Here are just a few examples of the traits that make Nike such a successful brand with Millennials.

  • Commitment to their mission: Nikes mission is: Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete (if you have a body you are an athlete) in the world. They live this mission by building deep community connections and creating positive social change through their outreach programs. The Active Schools and Youth Sports programs that Nike supports, in partnership with childrens sports and health organizations worldwide, appeals to millennials commitment to make the world a better place for all people. The Nike Employee Grand Fund is an innovative approach to grant-making that awards grants to organizations that promote sport and physical activity for youth as well as addressing broader family and youth issues through sustainable, innovative and replicable community solutions.
  • Sustainable Innovation: Millennials think exercise, not just diet, is essential for good health. Nikes focus on quality active wear and the incorporation of top-tier technology into its clothing makes them the go-to brand for active wear. Millennials are also very concerned about the environment and sustainability. In 2013, Nike launched the MAKING App designed to help designers make better choices about the materials they use using a database that ranks materials based on environmental impact. Nike also uses polyester from recycled bottles in their footwear and apparel. Since 2010, Nike has diverted more than two billion bottles from landfills. [Source: About Nike at]
  • Commitment to Solve Social Issues: Nike partners with a number of other companies to make the world better. Launch, is one example. Launch is an open innovation platform that was founded by NASA, Nike, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of Stat to identify and explore breakthrough ideas that will help build a more sustainable world. A current area of focus is on transforming materials and manufacturing systems worldwide that have social, environmental and economic impacts on our lives. Their tagline is collective genius for a better world. Nikes involvement dovetails perfectly with their mission and demonstrates their genuine commitment to make the world a better place.

Millennials demand real reasons to be loyal. They have high expectations about the companies, products and services theyre willing to support. The value innovation, authenticity, quality, transparency and a commitment to making the world better. The more you understand and engage with millennials, seek their input, invite them to co-create with you, the more likely you are to succeed with this critically important, committed and tech savvy population. The importance of being earnest and authentic is key.

Learn more about how you can obtain a deeper understanding of your customers. Key Success Factors for Digital Transformation in Retail.


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