Comedy Central spends a great deal of time thinking about, engaging with, measuring, and talking to its audience about its brand and competitors. In “Making the Millennial Brand Connection,” Comedy Central set out to broaden that conversation and gain a strong understanding of the brands that Millennials connect with and, most importantly, how those brands connect with them. Based on the analysis of a selection of brands that Millennials love, Comedy Central identified 10 “connection points” or commonalities among these brands. These points were consistent regardless of the product or service offered by the brand.
Millennials love brands that come off as:
1. More Human, Less Corporate
Millennials connect with brands that act like humans – not with ones that seem like corporatized entities or cold institutions. Most of the brands that feel more human and less corporate have a clear and compelling “Story of Origin” and convey a sense of playfulness, a strong Millennial value.
2. Creators as Rock Stars with Grand Visions
Millennials connect with brands that are associated with certain individuals who are held up and treated like rock stars – think Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg – with “grand visions” looking for big glory. Millennials come to associate the values of the brand with the values of that individual.
3. Having A Big Heart
Brands can have grand visions and big glory, but they can still have a soul. In focus groups, young people often praise brands that come across as companies with big hearts, citing, for example, corporations that offer good health insurance programs to part-time employees. For this generation you don’t have to choose between making money and making a difference; Millennials expect both from you.
4. Culture Contributors
Millennials value – perhaps even feel ownership over – creativity and culture, so brands that contribute to or pay homage to culture in connect with this generation.
5. Constant Chameleons
Many of the brands Millennials connect with are “constant chameleons” – brands that constantly change and improve, while consistently and reliably offering the same great products.
6. The Under-Sellers
Millennials are especially wary of unapologetic, flashy self-promotion — whether in brands or people. On the contrary, Millennials connect with brands that ingratiate themselves into their lifestyle, rather than try to sell them.
7. Super-Serving & Empowering
Brands that successfully reach Millennials empower them and super-serve them in three key ways: offering them 1) choice and personalized options; 2) gifts and treats; and 3) personalized customer ways.
To be transparent, brands must see themselves in a relationship with their customers, communicating, letting them know what they are thinking and feeling as time goes on and explaining the decisions they are making. This is an important connection point for Millennials because transparency squarely aligns with the value Millennials have for openness.
9. I Wanna Work There
If a brand seems like a cool place to work, Millennials are more likely to connect with it.
10. Passionate, Purposeful & Sincere
Brands that express a unique vision, driven by a desire to create something specific, interesting and personal.
Since these points were consistent regardless of the product or service offered by the brand, virtually any brand can apply these “connection points” as ways to build loyalty and connection with Millennial consumers.
This study was based on pattern analysis, using semiotics, combined with secondary research and Comedy Central’s ongoing proprietary research on Millennials. Beginning with a list of approximately 100 brands that are popular among youth, according to published data, Comedy Central selected 10 brands that were considered high passion/high engagement brands; conducted an in-depth brand and campaign anaylsis of how those brands make decisions and choices that impact a public relationship; and then correlated those patterns and similarities with research on Millennials. Brands include: Trader Joe’s, Facebook, Manchester United, Tom’s Shoes, Apple, Vans, Google, Starbucks, Nintendo, and Ray Ban.
Chanon Cook is Senior Vice President, Strategic Insights and Research for Comedy Central.