TNGG: 15 Ways GenY Thinks About Brands

Originally posted on TNGG.

Generation Y has a new relationship with brands. They saturated our world from birth, from alarm clocks and OJ to ice cream and PJs brands are everywhere and everything.

In the early 1980s advertisers began think of brands as more than logos or taglines, but as a position in the minds of consumers and a conceptual framework for adding value to products and services.

Over the next twenty years, as my generation came of age, brands evolved into symbols that carry intellectual and emotional meaning. Brands like Apple, Pedigree or Diesel define themselves in terms of functionality, personality, and identity.

Further, because of new technology our relationships with media (and thus the world around us) are far different from those of previous generations; and how and when we interact with brands and there messages is new as well.

Our saturated, plugged-in lives have built extraordinarily broad and rich brand knowledge structures in our minds. As a result, Millennials’ attitude toward and engagement with brands is unique. Yet, little is understood in terms of how.

I’ve created a list of ideas about how Millennials view and engage with the brands. The core ideas are that we feel ownership of brands that we use, we are fluent in the stories they tell, and use and shape those stories for identification and communication.

1. For Millennials brands are not a bad thing, just a thing.

2. We expect brands to offer us value (our definition of value is wide – a good product, an engaged community, two way communication, flexible meaning associated etc. more below)

3. If a community is not created for us by a brand we will create it. If one is created for us, it must be flexible and transparent. And, either way this community is considered to be owned by us (the users), not the brand.

4. We expect a say in the evolution of the identity of our community and thus “our” brand.

5. We want interaction with “our” brand.

6. From profiles to phones we demand the ability to personalize and customize. We want to make our piece of our brand, our own.

7. Like with good writing, truth is the most compelling feature of any brand – chic or punk, it must be honest.

8. Brands must know our boundaries and not attempt to push into our lives, they must be welcomed and will only be allowed so far.

9. Brands are embraced only if they follow certain unspoken rules and boundaries. Even the most brand loyal Millennial will abandon a brand if the conditions above  are broken.

10. My brand associations are important to me, but ultimately a just one of many variables in my daily life/ equation of personal meaning and value. I dislike brands that do not understand their place in this equation.

11. Brands are used to self identify and create personal meaning. We seek out brands that represent who we are, or wish to be.

12. Individuals and groups identify similar people via their similar brand associations; this commonalty creates a de facto community.

13. We are fluent in brands. We know the symbols, their messages, and the communities associated with them.

14. We speak a language of brands, we can easily construct other and larger meanings through the combination and layering of brands.

(Take someone wearing a Red Sox hat, Converse shoes, North Face jacket, and holding Starbucks coffee – add or subtract any element here, and their brand equation or association map changes, and so does my understanding of them).

15. Just as much as brands mean everything they also mean nothing. Real interactions with people (virtually and in real life) are most important, I don’t much care if I’m drinking a coke or pepsi when I’m with those friends.


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