<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://px.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=1354116&amp;fmt=gif">

Six Essential Brand Qualities for Building Millennial Loyalty

It’s been well-documented that Millennials are the most loyal generation toward brands. A study revealed that just over half of the participants say they are loyal or quite loyal to their favorite brands.

Millennials are the most loyal generation to their favorite brands

That loyalty isn’t easily earned. It’s built on a number of factors that help Gen Y see through the marketing claims and ensure your brand delivers on its promise. Our qualitative research uncovered those qualities.

(NOTE: Please read the rest of this post, but if you’d like even more detail, check out Monika Wingate’s webinar on the topic.)


Digging Into The Details: What Really Builds Trust?

In a study of the top 100 brands, the following top consumer packaged goods from the food and beverage industry emerged.

Top consumer package groups from food and beverage industry


Many interesting marketing tactics were used by each company to reach Millennials, but we wanted more than a tactical approach. We were looking for a holistic view of what actually establishes trust with Millennials.

For that, we needed to move beyond market research surveys. We needed to have a conversation with Millennials, to not only ask questions, but to probe and understand their answers. To gain that level of insight, we moved beyond the quantitative to the qualitative using a Digsite Sprint.


Finding the Answer: Prioritize, Optimize, Iterate

A Digsite Sprint is an online qualitative research community that typically lasts a week. Through an interface designed to resemble social media, participants can respond to questions, give feedback on marketing concepts, interact with a group, and speak one-on-one with researchers.

Use the following approach to not only test ideas, but to modify them and gauge reactions:

Prioritize, Optimize, Iterate

  1. Prioritize Consumer Needs: Ask questions to understand consumer needs based on lifestyle and behaviors.
  2. Optimize Your Concepts: Share ideas (in this case, marketing concepts) with participants to get their feedback.
  3. Iterate As You Learn: Follow up with additional questions and idea based on the input from Steps 1 and 2.

In this study, Steps 1 and 2 revealed Millennials must trust a brand before they’ll use it. We used Step 3 to clarify the specific factors required to establish that trust.


Research Specifics

Three Digsite Sprints were conducted for the study. The first focused on beverages, the second on household cleaning brands, and the third focused on marketers and their perceptions of how Millennials approach brands.

Forty participants were recruited through social media using our proprietary SocialFind™ recruiting approach.

Six Qualities to Build Brand Loyalty

Through a series of discussions, polls and image mark-up activities, six qualities emerged as critical for establishing trust. Taken as a whole, they seem very emblematic of the Millennials.

Your brand must include each of these qualities. You’re only as strong as your weakest link; we saw negative results among brands that short-changed the formula.

6 qualities required to build trust in a brand

1. Heritage

Brand heritage is extremely important for Millennials. We posted eight brand logos, and asked participants to assign pluses and minuses to show affinity for brands. Established brands, such as Clorox, Tide and Palmolive did exceptionally well. Newbies such as The Honest Company did not.

Rating of top household brands by Millennials

The qualitative responses indicated Millennials preferred the names they heard while growing up. There was value in the fact that the brand had been in the family for years.

But does this mean there’s no room for new brands? Absolutely not.

Dust Cutter, for example, did very well with Millennials because their marketing messaging provided the backstory of a family-run business. They want to see the people behind the product. That emerges through your heritage.

Heritage Takeaways:

  • Tell your story, and use it to establish a relationship. Millennials won’t trust a stranger.
  • Give your brand a strong personality, and make it grounded.


2. Health Benefits

Health benefits were extremely important to Millennials. The study revealed how savvy Gen Y can be when it comes to health benefits. They read labels. They understand the value of natural ingredients and the harmful effects of excessive sugar.

(In fact, the survey surprisingly revealed that “organic” wasn’t a key health benefit -- it was judged to be too expensive. The focus was instead on natural, whatever the food label revealed.)

You can’t just talk the talk with health benefits. In a side-by-side comparison between Protein2o and Dust Cutter, the concept of a protein-focused beverage appeared like it would be a big winner among Millennials.

Side-by-side comparison between Protein2o and Dust Cutter

Health Takeaways:

Health benefits are important, and Gen Y is well-educated on the subject.

Claiming health benefits alone won’t work. You also need supporting evidence.


3. Efficacy Claims

As we just noted, you have to back up your claims. Millennials are loyal about brands, but they are also skeptical about the marketing that’s trying to win their trust.

In the Tide advertisement, for example, they wanted to see Tide’s dermatologist research.

Millennial critique of efficacy claim

In fact, many participants did their own brand research before giving reactions on companies they weren’t familiar with, such as The Honest Company.

How you prove your products’ efficacy is critical. You must integrate it into part of your brand marketing. You actually have to plan how to navigate them through the research.

Efficacy Claims Takeaways:

Millennials will research your claims outside of your own marketing.

You must make it easy for them to validate your claims by presenting research and proof.


4. Transparency

This is the generation that absolutely will not be lied to. In some cases, it’s been reported that a brand that admits its mistakes will achieve superior brand preference simply because it’s been honest with its customers.

Millennials don’t want you to withhold information, and they will sniff it out if you’re trying to keep things under wraps.

Don’t say something is organic or natural when it isn’t. Millennial quote

Transparency Takeaways:

Don’t make false claims. EVER.

Being honest may even be more important than being right.


5. Aesthetics

Once you’ve established trust and credibility with your honesty and proven efficacy, design is extremely important. In side-by-side comparisons, participants preferred the crisp, clear graphics of Tide to the more “washed-out” feel of The Honest Company.

Millennials like these images. They reinforce the professionalism and quality of your company. Just don’t present them in lieu of solid proof that you can deliver on your promise.

Gen Y definitely has a keen eye for graphics. Some participants even designed their own beverages packaging and labels.

Millennial beverage label and package design

Aesthetic Takeaways:

AFTER you prove your brand’s efficacy, graphics can make a big difference.

Professionalism is important; your graphics should communicate quality.


6. Social Support

Perhaps nothing delineates Millennials from previous generations like the impact social media has on brand preference. The main reason why Gen Y is loyal to their brand is because they have the means to research products and services to determine if efficacy claims are true.

They can call marketers on the carpet...in front of an entire world of consumers. Your response shows how you’ll handle negativity and complaints. Do you care what your customers think? Can you show them how you’ll make it right?

Participant quote on social media

Social Support Takeaways:

Use social support to backup all your marketing claims.

Honesty is essential. Use it to establish a relationship.


Marketers Aren’t Understanding the Brand Factors

In addition to the two studies on household products and beverages, we also conducted an online qualitative research study on marketers. Our goal was to determine if they understand how important these brand qualities truly are.

You can see the side-by-side comparisons of marketers’ predictions compared to Millennials actual preferences, but the big takeaway is that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of how important all these qualities are in building a trusted brand.

Side-by-side comparison of Millennials’ and marketer’s responses

Marketers thought making the claim was enough. Marketers thought that simply by dubbing a product “eco-friendly,” Millennials would be sufficiently wooed. They were not.

Gen Y will reward you for a long, long time if you gain their loyalty. But unless you account for heritage, health benefits, transparency, efficacy claims, aesthetics, and social support, you’ll have a very hard time building a trusted brand.

Ready to learn more or get started? Download our free ebook, Agile Research Guide: How Consumer Product Teams Can Innovate Faster.


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.