The millennial generation, born 1980-2000, represents the single largest generational group in history. In the coming years, they will make up over 50 percent of the workforce while earning more than any other generation. They are technologically advanced, globally connected and incredibly marketing-savvy. In their prime spending years, which are right around the corner, their buying power will be as impressive as their social influence.

In the next five years, millennials will determine what happens to your brand. So the question is: Do you know how to market to them? Brandimage Paris analyzed millennial interaction with brands, to better understand what they care about and the impact their influence will have on successful marketing efforts. We uncovered four key trends that define millennials and can guide us in designing meaningful branding.

Fun Culture: Joking Is the New Statement

Millennials have grown up in a culture that is radically different from past generations. A constantly changing global landscape, economic turbulence and lower employment levels have left them with sharply different priorities and expectations. As an antidote, millennials have embraced optimism over fatalism. They look for joyful experiences, humor and imaginative creativity as a way to escape. Marketing with a quirky hook resonates, where emotional campaigns fall flat.

At the same time, millennials are the first generation of digital natives. Their hyper-connectivity makes them incredibly sensitive to the difference between a genuine conversation and being “advertised to.” This makes them more likely to engage with brands that get to know them as individuals rather than as a “marketing age group.”

Brands need to care about what millennials care about — and have a little fun. A recent Pepsi campaign targeting millennials featured a twist on the traditional soda fountain. The Pepsi Spire™ fountain put thousands of drink combinations at people’s fingertips with digital soda fountains featuring a captivating interactive interface. Minimal design and sleek touchscreen empowered users to enjoy a uniquely personal, entertaining Pepsi experience.

Similarly, Dolce & Gabbana set out to start a conversation with their social savvy consumers in May 2016 with #DGFamily. The pavements of London, Paris, Milan and New York became the canvas for eco-friendly graffiti portraying the smiling faces of Domenico Dolce, Stefano Gabbana and their pets, along with a hashtag #DGFamily. Fans of the brand were invited to find the graffiti scattered around their city and share a tagged photograph through social media, making it easy for others to track down the images.

100% Connected: Welcome to The Sixth Continent

Millennials have never known a world without 100 percent connectivity. For them being connected is not a choice; it’s simply how they interact with the things they care about. On-demand information and experiences are central to their ability to have an eye on everything.

But they are not content to simply surf the web. Millennials are always on the hunt for connections that can lead to quick, sometimes impulsive adventures in real life. Their adventures help them discover cultures they’ve learned about online that can be integrated into their daily lives. Highly educated, they consider themselves to be world citizens and are eager to leave a positive impact.

The social sharing company Snapchat, now Snap, introduced a product firmly planted at the crossroads between connectivity and adventure in September 2016. Spectacles (Specs, for short) are sunglasses that come with a small camera built into the upper corners of the frames. Tap a button near the camera and Specs records for 10 seconds at a time. Multiple snaps can be taken and then transferred to the Snapchat app where it’s shared or stored. Products that enable this social sharing through video are rapidly becoming a preferred communication vehicle for millennials because they tap into the desire for on-the-go interaction.

iAttitude: Born to Be You

For millennials, self-expression is more important than aesthetic norms and good taste. Creativity reinforces their personality. In fact, they consider good taste an old-school value, seeking instead a do-it-yourself approach to style and “what’s cool,” without rules. What they wear and how they express themselves on social channels is a window into the beliefs and freedoms they value. It’s not enough to say what you believe. You have to live it out loud. It’s not uncommon for millennials to buy products from brands they love and embellish them or cut them up with the goal of making these products look more like “them.”

To that end, they are more interested in learning by doing than learning from books. Theories and abstraction aren’t enough. They gravitate towards experiential practice and learning from their own mistakes. And they want to do it in a way that combines their passions with their personal and professional lives. A recent study published by FutureCast found that 40 percent of millennials want to participate in co-creation of products and brands.

Millennials are looking for marketing that integrates into their lives, rather than forcing them to adapt. NIKEiD allows consumers to design their own shoes, allowing them to express their personalities through active brand interaction. Millennials appreciate wearing brands that let them be themselves. As another example, Ecole 42, a non-profit computer programming school, embodies the value of learning through experience. Peer-to-peer evaluation and group projects are the norm, encouraging students to focus on how they can help each other learn, rather than what they have to hand in to a professor. In both of these examples, success came from “show” rather than “tell.”

We Generation: Sharing Is the New Wealth

While millennials look for opportunities for their proverbial “15 minutes of fame,” they are also philosophically drawn to the idea of being “stronger together,” defining success as an accumulation of shared interests and adventures. Collaboration and consideration are highly valued over hierarchy or social status. Connectivity and social sharing have allowed millennials from all over the world to find common ground, connect and mobilize for social change. Millennials place a high value on action. They believe that they can change the world. And, more importantly, that they will do it together. Millennial communities are larger because there are no boundaries for involvement: Everyone can participate, from any place.

Hilton Worldwide has recently tapped into this mindset, and hopefully the millennial market as a whole, with their new midscale, concept hotel: Tru by Hilton. Designed to be simple and intuitive, these hotels would be a “cost-conscious, cool-conscious” option for travelers looking for modern design, public spaces where they can work and socialize, and has advanced technology such as mobile check-in. Hotels like this are helping to redefine the travel world in favor of smaller hotel rooms, where millennials spend less time, and have more “together” spaces, where collaboration and communication are encouraged.

Now You Know

Ultimately the future success of your brand depends on understanding an incredibly large, powerful, marketing-savvy generation. In fact, studies suggest that millennials are already responsible for over a trillion dollars in direct buying power. This is a snapshot of what they care about. The rest is up to you.

*This was a collaborative piece written by Delphine Dauge, Agency Director, and Jean-Christophe Estrampes Director of Strategic Planning, Brandimage Paris. 

Jean-Christophe Estrampes, Director of Strategic Planning at brandimage Paris, is an expert in brand positioning and visual identity consulting in both luxury and mass-market segments. With a DEA in Political Science and a M.A. Public Law, Jean-Christophe has 20 years experience in driving innovation, concept ideation and brand workshops, building on his outstanding insights on trends and analyses of major social and marketing evolutions. Together with the Brandimage team, he helps companies build efficient brand platforms and meaningful design programs that drive brand performance.