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Gaining Brand Trust From Those Pesky Millennials

The key to gaining a market share of the millennials is not much different than the generations before them.

Gaining Brand Trust From Those Pesky Millennials

I recently attended a seminar entitled “Working Across Generations” in which the facilitator challenged attendees to work in small groups and develop strategies for how to bridge generational divides in the workplace.  Our discussion started with the stereotypes associated with each generation.

Greatest Generation:  Strong work ethic with patriotic undertones.

Baby Boomers:  hard workers with rebellious streaks.

Generation Xers:  Rebel consumers with minimal time for work.

Millennials:  Tech-obsessed, self-centered, but driven to succeed. 

This discussion got me thinking about how brick-and-mortar businesses might reach this new generation of millennials, many of whom are experiencing disposable income for the first time.  This disposable income, I will note, is relatively scarce due to the soaring cost of higher education.  This presents a challenge for retailers hoping to earn the trust necessary for new consumers to spend their precious dollars on a particular brand.

What’s the secret?  Well, the key to gaining a market share of the millennials is not much different than the generations before them.  It’s communication.  Below are a few practical tips.

  1. Believe it or not, there is such thing as social media overload.  Yes, millennials are more virtually connected than any generation that has come before.  This might lead a retailer to believe that the more social media tools they utilize the better.  Wrong.  Choose a social media channel that makes sense for your business.  Millennial consumers are savvy; they won’t spend any time at all on your social media sites if they don’t make sense or are clunky to navigate.  Make a commitment to a social media channel that makes sense for your business and stick with it before hopping on another channel.  You, like consumers, have a limited amount of time to spend generating content and keeping your content relevant.  Go easy on yourself and don’t spread your business too thin on social media.

  2. Don’t confuse consumers with your social media “savvy.”  So you just read Tip #1, and you think you’ve overcome this problem by linking all of your social media accounts to efficiently update and maintain your presence.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the smartest move.  Every social media channel has unique qualities that attract a specific consumer set.  It is critical, particularly for millennials that you interact with your consumers in the style used by each site.  For example, Twitter followers expect short, real-time updates from retailers so sending them a longer, visual post that aligns more with Facebook could alienate or confuse your Twitter customers.  Unlink your accounts.  You don’t have to like it.  Just do it.

  3. Thank us.  Thank us.  Thank us.  A millennial walks into your store (no, this is not the beginning of a bad joke), you interact with them, they purchase something, they exit the store.  What now?  (Don’t worry, it’s not a trick question.)  Millennials are just like any other life generation, they like to be thanked.  Nothing beats the power of a good, old-fashioned thank you.  Even millennials love a postcard in the mail.  A shout-out on Twitter, while slightly less personable, can also be effective.

For these and other fantastic tips for communicating with customers from all generations, check out “The Ann E. Answers Guide to Communications Etiquette in the Digital Age.”  The book was written by my company and can be purchased at  All book proceeds go to Dress for Success, a local nonprofit dedicated to promoting the economic independence of disadvantaged women in the Twin Cities.

About the Author

Elizabeth Emerson

Elizabeth Emerson

Elizabeth Emerson is director of government relations at Goff Public and a member of MnRA's Board of Directors.

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