Millennials want brands to be 'useful,' 'disruptive'

As brands continue to study the Millennial demographic in order to effectively woo them into their restaurants, it's important to remember how much things have changed in such a short amount of time. Lessons from business school's Marketing 101 don't apply anymore.

This is according to Jeff Fromm, executive vice president at ad agency Barkley. Fromm has 25 years of brand marketing experience and is the founder of Barkley's Millennial Marketing Conference, as well as co-author of "Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever."

He spoke on a panel at the Retail Customer Experience Executive Summit this week in San Diego, sharing the five following insights about Millennial consumers:

  1. "The definition of brand value we've known has died. It's not enough to have functional and emotional products, we've now entered an era of participation economy," Fromm said. Participation means the consumer helps co-create products and services, through social media or other marketing channels.
  2. Participation is important because consumers now want brands that have a purpose that aligns to their personal values. "It's about me now, not the brand," Fromm said. "Useful is the new cool." An example of this is Yelp Monical, an app that allows users to point their smartphone in a certain direction and then list restaurants in that direction.
  3. Krispy Kreme's Hot Light mobile app is an example of "useful," according to Fromm. The app, originally introduced in 2011, alerts users whenever their local Krispy Kreme rolls out hot, fresh doughnuts. The brand's Hot Light has long been an iconic part of its history, which "lives to thrive" through this app, Fromm said. The app generated 42 million searches in the first year alone, before many brands even had such a mobile component.
  4. Millennials don't necessarily embrace things that used to work for a brand. "They embrace disruption in the industry," he said.
  5. Finally, Fromm calls Millennials the savviest group of consumers ever. This is mostly because they're digital native," rather than "digital learned."

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