Knowledge Bomb No. 15 - Brief Encounters

In our latest audience report You Don’t Even Know Me, we dispelled the ‘millennial myth’ that lumps this disparate audience group into one all-encompassing box. Given the disparity in the pushes and pulls that drive purchase behaviour (and indeed attitudes to wider life) between young people at different stages of their lives, a broad-brush brief written to ‘engage Millennials’ is far too wide and inherently bound to fail.

Our report findings also questioned the modish notion that psychography trumps demography – that a unified Millennial mindset can be applied to anyone, no matter what age. This fails to recognise that there is no such thing as one amorphous set of Millennial values, and that attitudes, opinions and preferences are in a constant state of flux as young people move through different life milestones.

In Knowledge Bomb 15 we’re going to demonstrate the level of nuance brands need to consider in crafting a so-called Millennial brief. We’re taking just two of these life milestones – High Schoolers, sixth-form and college attendees and Young Families, co-habitors settling down with kids – and highlighting the disparity between their attitudes towards authenticity, ethics and influencers. 


It’s hard to encounter a brief targeting Millennials and not come across the word ‘authenticity’ right after. But brands need to note how this abstract brand attribute has fundamentally different connotations across life stages. A brand seeking to bump up its ‘authenticity score’ amongst High Schoolers will need to regularly invest in lifestyles and cultures their products relate to (152% more likely than average to say so). This segment sees authenticity as a proxy for brands that stick on an area of interest/culture like music, art or film and commit to investing in that space.

On the older end of the spectrum, Young Families see authentic brands as the ones that better represent them and people like them (131% above average). Clearly it’s important to them that brands get the real them, looking beyond mere labels.

With this in mind, two very different approaches are laid bare. The former resonates more with the way Vans has committed itself fully to the skate sub-culture, best manifested via their House of Vans skatepark in South London. Vans even financed the award-winning skate documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, further signalling their contribution to this subculture.

Dove Men+Care took the latter approach to their adverts that looked beyond beers, muscles and cars for the young dads they portrayed, instead equating strength to caring for their families. By having a much more deeper understanding of what young fathers value and define themselves as, the brand has seen positive growth since their launch in 2010. Closer to home, ASOS recently received favourable mentions for featuring female models with stretch marks and other skin ‘blemishes’ in their latest swimwear campaign (instead of airbrushing them like typical competitors).


Whilst it is true that this cohort places a greater value on a brand’s ethics and values when making purchase decisions, it is important to note that lifestages again play a role in which values mean more to one segment to the next.

Looking at High Schoolers again, the top two brand values were being responsible towards the environment and promoting gender equality (39% vs. 29% average). Young Families, on the other hand, were most interested to see brands empower communities as well as promote animal welfare/rights.

This difference in brand value priorities can be seen in the approaches taken by Chipotle (attempting to engage younger Millennials) and Kenco (aimed towards the Young Families cohort).

The Burrito giant’s biggest campaigns have singularly focussed on their ethical and sustainable practices in animal welfare – be it their smartphone game The Scarecrow or their latest comedic content series on ‘getting as real as it can get’. Kenco, on the other hand, has played up their contributions to bettering communities from where they source coffee beans. Their ‘Coffee vs. Gangs’ microsite and content hub showcased the stories of rescuing young Hondurans from gang culture by empowering them with entrepreneurial skills to become coffee farmers.


In the rush to jump aboard the influencer marketing train, brands forget that different life stages have varying views on what makes an online personality trustworthy to them in order to drive purchase consideration.

High Schoolers are most likely in this cohort to be concerned with the personality of an influencer (31.5% vs. 23% average) as well as how large the influencer’s following/subscriber base is (25% vs. 19% average).  But when it comes to Young Families, a completely different criteria applies. Young Families are looking for influencers who are knowledgeable in the relevant subject (45% vs. 40% average) as well as if they’d come across/liked the influencer’s previous work (30% vs. 24%).

To put this into practise, take our work with EA Games and Wrangler. For the launch of Star Wars: Battlefront EA needed to reach young gamers across Europe. By engaging YouTube superstars Ali-A (8.2million subscribers) and Vikkstar123 (3.2million subs) we instantly achieved the reach and credibility required to influence a partisan and hugely knowledgeable audience.

Conversely, Wrangler needed to reach Young Families: people who still crave an adventurous lifestyle but have to temper that with the commitments work and family bring. We curated a series of pan-European microadventures alongside the author and adventurer Alastair Humphreys, demonstrating that no matter where you live it’s possible to get into nature and have an authentic outdoor experience within 60 minutes of your front door. The influencers and the audiences couldn’t have been more different, but the results in both cases were record levels of engagement and significant upticks in sales.

a brief conclusion

As the most talked about, over hyped and marketed to generation in history, it's unlikely the term Millennial is going to disappear from client briefs any time soon. And that's okay, as long as it's counterbalanced by an understanding that any attempt to influence this generation must be based on the particular life milestone they've reached, rather than a generic age bracket.

Over the last twelve months we've produced campaigns for brands as diverse as EA Games, Pernod Ricard, Denby Pottery and Birds Eye reach Millennials of all ages - all by understanding the key trends, passion points and sources of influence of our audience.

You know where to find us.