When it comes to brands, Millennials are unforgiving

PRWeek taps the industry's Millennial comms stars for a frank discussion about what this much-sought-after segment really wants from brands.

NEW YORK: "Millennials influence everyone in the country – their peers, parents, grandparents.  They are the most critical group to measure and engage," said Linda Mills, director of global corporate comms. She cautioned, however, "they’re the easiest to attract, but the hardest to engage."

Mills was one of four PRWeek 40 under 40 honorees that were on stage at the PRWeek Conference to discuss, from the Millennial perspective, what influences their purchasing decisions and the social media trends they see among their peers.

Mills was joined by Russ Dyer, VP of corporate affairs at Kraft Foods, Michael Gonda, VP of corporate comms at Chobani, and Andrew McCaskill, SVP of global comms at Nielsen.

Dyer said that while he does not identify with many Millennial trends, he did "Airbnb last night and Uber’ed this morning," and added that Millennials, who used to be referred to as having "big mouths and small wallets," now have significant buying power.

McCaskill stressed the importance of a succinct approach to Millennial customers who are thirsty for social media "snacks."

"If you can't do it in 15 seconds, soon it will not make sense," he added.

Although as Dyer and Gonda agreed, you cannot simply chase the latest trends to the detriment of a clear and holistic story.

For the modern consumer, "It is not about liking a brand, it's about joining a brand," said Mills.

The panel was unanimous in the crucial importance of a brand showing strength in CSR and adamant that Millennials will not tolerate "fake authenticity."

Especially important for a young company like Chobani, Gonda said brands must be steadfast and transparent when taking a stand. "If you transgress, Millennials will never forgive you for it."

Generation X and Millennials are also determined to have their voices heard. They "vote with their dollars, as well as in the ballot box," said McCaskill.

The panel ended with a subject much debated in the PR and comms industry – the difficulties of juggling a personal life and a career.

"It's not about a work-life balance, it's about a work-life blend," said Dyer.

Chobani has created "a culture where it's OK, in fact it's celebrated, to go off and be with your family," said Gonda. 

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