What Millennials Want to See From Brands

By , Social Media Coordinator and Public Relations Specialist, Hanson Dodge

So what’s the secret to engaging Millennials? We did some research. After all, when a target holds $200 billion in annual buying power a deeper look isn’t a bad idea. As it turns out, Millennials expect a whole lot of everything. Confusing, I know. So what exactly does that mean?

As a Millennial myself, here’s the overview. What we want to see from brands are things you’ve been hearing about for the past few years, but still are not as common as Millennials would like:

1. Transparency and authenticity. Millennials value a business that owns its actions. We want something that speaks to us personally. Keep it real and be candid.   

2. Personalization and experience. Build a relationship with Millennials and really cater to the individual. Do this and we’ll notice. 

3. Peer to peer to peer. Millennials listen to others, a lot. Identify your brand ambassadors, build relationships with them, and a community will build for your brand. 

These concepts are as important as ever, but the reality is that Millennials want different things at different times from different brands. It’s a very broad demographic, after all. So how do we identify what matters most? Well, we asked Millennials.

Kevin Ward (22), Marketing Specialist, Hanson Dodge Creative

Meet Kevin, he’s a man of visuals. Kev enjoys solid photography and is more likely to follow a brand on social media when its photos are up to par. To him, accounts that make you see the brand as a lifestyle, rather than a product, win every time.

Who’s doing this well? Cheerios, Huckberry and GoPro.

Cheerios  Huckberry  GoPro

It’s not just Kevin, either. Millennials are twice as likely as the average consumer to share photos online. In fact, 60 percent of those who posted pictures in the past 30 days on social media were Millennials. This is also true for social media in general. Forty-four percent of users are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures, and articles that contain images get 94 percent more views.

When advertising on visually optimized platforms, the type of content you develop as a brand should strive to be visually appealing. Taking into account that 83 percent of human learning is visual, an investment in high-quality images is something worth considering.

Kaila Kissinger (24), Digital Marketing Manager, Hanson Dodge Creative

Kaila prefers useful and entertaining content. She’s all about fun recipes, how-tos, new product announcements, customer testimonials and behind-the-scenes content. If brands tend to over-sell or are too frequent with their posts, she’s not going to engage.

My talk with Kaila also identified a few other interesting points. Despite the fact she hasn’t bought products from Alex & Ani (yet), she follows them solely for their brand story and how they tell it. Well-developed content also strikes a chord with her.

     Alex and Ani

As a whole, Millennials crave content that is customized. In fact, 63 percent of Millennials respond positively to content that is tailored for them. Don’t forget about making it valuable, too. Sixty-four percent of Millennials respond positively to content that is useful, and roughly 30 percent refuse to engage with content that doesn’t educate them. Don’t just make pretty-looking content; make it worth someone’s time. Yes, it’s a time-consuming and often resource-heavy approach. There’s no sugar-coating that. However, the more your brand invests into what your audience wants to see, the greater the results. Check our Executive Creative Director Chris Buhrman’s article, How to Get (Give) the Most Out of Your Ad Campaign, to learn more about the value of creating content that gives something to its audience.

Joe Ciccarelli (31), Associate Creative Director, Hanson Dodge Creative

Joe skews older in the Millennial demographic, though there aren’t drastic differences in his preferences. He wants to see stuff that’s interesting, thoughtful, timely and personalized. He’s a big fan of Shinola, for example, due to their great design and their dedication to bringing jobs back to Detroit (his hometown).


Millennials integrate their core beliefs and the causes they support into their choice of brands. 40 percent of Millennials say that they expect the brands they buy to support a social cause. 66 percent of Millennials say they buy brands that reflect their style and much of their style is what they believe in.

As a brand, show your values, and mean it. Every brand has a cause these days, but few really articulate it well to differentiate themselves or gain enough traction with Millennials. Remember, Millennials value authenticity. Don’t just support a cause to support a cause. Start with your core values as a brand and build a story around those. It will be more authentic and Millennials will be more likely to listen.

Katherine Schmidt (24), Account Executive, Hanson Dodge Creative

User-generated content (UGC) is the only thing Katherine wants from brands, and it has to be on Instagram. This way, ads aren’t pushed on her (though that’s changing on Instagram). She wants creative posts for creative inspiration. In her book, aesthetics are huge. She’s a fan of Urban Outfitters. A majority of their content on Instagram comes from the community, effectively maintaining the aesthetic the brand has been known to own.

    Urban Outfitters

We took a look at some numbers. UGC is 35 percent more memorable than other media and is 50 percent more trusted. UGC has increasingly become a popular way for business’ to humanize their brand and become more relatable to the target. After all, users clicking on photos of real life people are twice as likely to convert to a sale. Check out our work for K-Swiss’ “The Board” campaign for some examples of UGC that drove 40 percent engagement among Millennials.

Remember how I mentioned peer-to-peer recommendations are important? This is where they come into play the most. 60 percent of Millennials say they don’t make purchase decisions based on advertising. People trust people more than brands. A restaurant may say its sushi is the best in the city, but Yelp! reviews will make you check it out. Humanize your brand. It starts with the content.

In the end, it really comes down to two things: great, innovative content and an authentic brand presence and story.

We interviewed many other Millennials in and out of Hanson Dodge, and they all had these expectations. Every brand should be working towards these key points. It’s the stepping stone to a more innovative, dynamic marketing plan. Remember, it’s not the target demographic that’s the problem. Millennials are willing to listen. The questions here is whether you’re capable and ready to invest in the brand story and content that will make them listen. The ball is in your court.

Need a hand? We can help. Give us a call.


Cesar Gomez, Social Media Coordinator and Public Relations Specialist, Hanson Dodge

A passionate storyteller with an obsession for social media, Cesar combines a creative mentality with strategic thinking to offer Hanson Dodge's clients impactful social media strategies that deliver results. With experience in a variety of industries, he tailors meaningful content to impact community growth, engagement, web traffic and conversion while bringing the consumer experience to new levels.

A graduate from Marquette University, Cesar loves exploring the latest in social media and keeping up with his social media street cred. You can find him on Snapchat or chowing down on a good burger, preferably at the same time.

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