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Brands Matter: Qualitative Digsite Research on How Millennials React to Household Products

Brands Matter: Qualitative Research on How Millennials React to Household Products

The Don Drapers of the world can rejoice: Millennials are still influenced by the allure of a powerful brand. However, as the recent qualitative research report indicates, your brand will resonate only if it appeals to Gen Y’s unique generational characteristics.

This is part 2 of a 3-part series of Marketing Health Products to Millennials. Using Digsite Sprints, we conducted a qualitative study on a group of 46 participants to discover Millennials’ perspective of consumer products and how marketers can use this to more effectively communicate with them. In this study, we focused on household products.

Want a quick copy of the report? Get one here!

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Does Branding Still Work With Millennials? Heck Yeah.

The good news for Don Draper and the Mad Men: Millennials are the most brand loyal generation. As reported in Inc., according to studies by Elite Daily and CrowdTwist, “Millennials are the most loyal generation to their favorite brands, with just over half (50.5 percent) saying they are extremely loyal or quite loyal to their favorite brands.”

Nora ganim barnes says millennials are a brand loyal generation

But as brand loyal as they might be, Professor Nora Ganim Barnes, Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, believes that Gen Y’ers are less influenced by push advertising and more by word of mouth, as noted in this article in eMarketer.  

So what kind of messaging should a marketer of household products produce to tap that brand loyalty? Our Digsite study revealed some interesting Millennial insights.


A Unique Qualitative Research Tool Uncovers Insights

First, a little background on the tool we used -- Digsite Sprints.  

A Digsite Sprint is an on-demand market research study designed to get in-depth insights with a highly targeted audience over a period of 1-5 days. The Digsite Sprint is an online qualitative research tool, with an interface that resembles familiar social media. Participants are recruited through social media based on their attitudes, interests and behaviors. You can download a complete report on the study here.

Activity 1 - A Day in the Life

In a Digsite community, the group is encouraged to share personal information and interact, so every session starts out with an introduction and some details about their personal life.

Millennials shared a bit about their day-to-day cleaning activities, and then completed a survey that explored specific attributes of a brand/product that they found valuable. Some photos of their household products included:

Household products all and tide

Household cleaners, clorox, dawn, windex

Key Takeaway #1: Household Products Have to Work And Smell Good

One of the buying traits of Millennials is that they rely on social media and the Internet for social proof to make a buying decision. It’s no surprise then that the short Digsite survey in Activity 1 revealed millennials want a product to work as advertised.  

But its effectiveness wasn’t just how it cleaned, but what type of smell it created in the room.  

View the report to see the full results of Activity 1.


Activity 2a: Gen Y Tries to Sell to Their Peers

One of the interesting and fun parts about a Digsite Sprint is it gives you the flexibility to use different exercises to pull insights from participants. (It’s why participants enjoy this type of research and leave such positive feedback in our follow-up surveys.)

In this activity, we asked the participants to think about either a new household product brand or a current favorite, and then convince a friend to try it.  

Millennial branding activity

Here are a few of the verbatim comments (look out, Madison Avenue!)

I think you should try Clorox laundry pods because it is the most bang for your buck! I like it better than XTRA detergent because it is not just diluted soap, it is a strong soap!

I think that you should try Dawn Dish Soap because it is a powerhouse for cleaning. I like it better than any other brands because it cuts through grease on dishes and useful in other cleaning as well such as stains in clothes.

Key Takeaway #2a: Convenience is King, and (Again) It Better Smell Good

As Millennials crafted messages to sell to other Millennials, efficacy and smell wasn’t sufficient.  Convenience and ease of use tended to be their top attributes.

View the report to see the full results of Activity 2a.


Activity 2b: Millennials Critique the Top Brands

Next, we asked participants to review some top household brands, and then leave comments about what works for them.

Participants were asked to drag a “+” on to brands they liked the most, a “-” on brands they liked the least and a “?” on any brands they weren’t sure about. Additionally, participants described why they made the selection they did.

Millennial brand feedback and preferences

Some verbatim comments include:

“I like the Clorox brand. I use bleach to disinfect around the house, I just wish the smell wasn’t as strong.” - Shannon

“All natural, smells nice, works great.” - Abigail

“This is another brand that I trust because my family has used it for generations. Great products.” - Laura

“Doesn’t always leave a great scent.” - Mandy

Key Takeaway #2b:

Our kneejerk reaction to Millennials is that they’ll do what’s best for the environment and social good (despite recent research to the contrary. See our previous post.)

In this exercise, some of the more “altruistic” brands didn’t generate the positive response that established brands carried, with trustworthiness being the compelling factor for Millennials.

Millennial response to activity 2

It should be noted that while Millennials prefer brands they know and trust, they have no qualms about switching between established brands, especially if there is a price advantage.

View the report to see the full results of Activity 2b.


Activity 3 - Side-by-Side Comparisons

In this activity, we dug deeper into the Millennials’ preference for an established brand vs. one that’s positioned to appeal to Millennials’ penchant for health-conscious products.  Again, we used the on-screen whiteboard, and allowed participants to leave comments.

Millennial consumer feedback on tide advertising concept

Some of the comments for each brand included:

“Clorox is a well know brand that makes an excellent product. I am no fan of the bleach smell but they do what it says it will” - Stacy

“Tide is the laundry soap I grew up with, it cleans clothes very well. I just find it to be on the expensive side.” - Kaitlyn

“It (honest co) is expensive, and I'm not sure to believe them when they say they use natural ingredients.” - Nicole

Key Takeaway #3:

Millennials had an overwhelming positive reaction to health benefits of the ads - particularly dye-free, natural ingredients and toxic-free attributes. Yet the harder hitting claims of the more established brand won out at the end of the day.

While the emerging brand has clear appeal among many Millennials, it should also be noted that clear, concise messaging is preferred. Adjectives such as “beautiful” didn’t score well.

View the report to see the full results of Activity 3.


Activity 4 - Straight From the Source: Videos of Millennials on Brand Trust

Digsite allows participants to record videos of themselves in response to the question “If you had a direct line to marketers to tell them what to do or say to be a brand you trust, what would you want them to know?”

Check out some of the video responses below.





Key Takeaway #4:

Clear communication is essential, but Millennials would also like additional transparency from the product. Millennials indicate that being able to see what is in a product and where it comes from would improve their trust. This is particularly important to back "natural" claims.

View the report to see the full results of Activity 4.


Why This Type of In-Depth Online Research Resonates...and What it Means for Brands

At the end of the Digsite research project, we surveyed participants about how they felt about the entire research project experience. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Comments included:

“...this site is perfect. you are learning about new things while also being able to inform others about your own choices! Would definitely recommend this to others" - Audrey

“...everything is done great, interactive with everyone. I like it. Thank you for the opportunity!” - Melissa

This is a strong indication of how Millennials are interacting with brands and products. According to this article on Inc., Elite Daily reports that nearly 90 percent of Millennials are actively using two to three devices a day, and roughly half are using social media or other internet-based tools to interact with their networks or influence buying decisions.

Gen Y is loyal to brands, yes, but that’s only because they have the means to fact-check and check reviews instantly. Otherwise, as noted in the qualitative report, they are very adverse to marketing puffery and exaggerated claims.


How does that intertwine with the positive response to this online research project from Millennials themselves?

Millennials will use social media and online tools to vet your product. But more importantly for brand marketers, they are happy and eager to participate in the creation of your product before you come to market to assure that you’re really delivering a brand they can trust.

Don’t market brands to millennials in a vacuum - household products or otherwise. Interact and integrate them into your marketing and product development process on their own digital turf.  When you do, you’ll build brand loyalty that wasn’t bought a la Don Draper - it was earned.


This is part 2 of our 3 part Millennial study. Part 3 puts Marketers to the test in trying to predict Millennial brand preferences, then comparing their response to actual Millennial responses! Check out part 3 here.

If you haven't already, check out part 1 here, exploring Millennials' preferences in a healthy bottled beverage and brand.


To learn more about how your company can benefit from iterative research, check out our Digsite Sprints Fact Sheet!

Get the Digsite Sprints Fact Sheet

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Topics: Millennials

Jane Boutelle

Jane Boutelle

Jane is the CCO and Co-Founder of Digsite, where she and the team provide the first truly social platform for getting consumer insights and user feedback. She has a deep background in software product management and marketing.