Sharing and Caring: Millennials Value Connection With Brands


Go to for Summit highlights, including VM’s overview story summarizing the presentations of the day, a slide show, PDFs and videos of speaker presentations.

As the session on Millennials took hold, certain truths emerged: convenience, price and “value” in the traditional sense take a back seat in young consumers’ shopping carts. What millennials do value, which they communicate through their social sharing, sustainability interests and personal autonomy when making purchasing decisions, is connection.

More than their iPhones and Instagram accounts (though both certainly play a role), the millennial generation of consumers, aged roughly 18 to 35, covet connection with the brands and products they purchase. Be it alignment with the brand’s philosophy or mission, appreciation for the brand’s “authentic” creativity or locally beneficial production or the brand’s ability to communicate effectively through social media or a successful commercial campaign, millennials seek a positive, personalized experience, in-store as well as online.

VM senior editor, Deirdre Carroll, set the stage for the first speaker, Jeff Fromm, who began his presentation with this pearl of Gen Y wisdom: “Your goal is to be a favorite brand, not the nearest end competitor.”

To watch the video on Millenials from the VM Summit, click here.

Fromm, who is executive vice president of Barkley, a marketing agency, and co-author of “Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever,” emphasized that it is willingness to take risk and implement new ideas, not a big budget, that will win over Gen Y customers.

“Don’t use traditional KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) when thinking about blue ocean ideas. You’re going to hit the ‘No Go’ button every time,” he said.

There are “Seven Simple Truths About Great Modern Brands,” according to Fromm:

1. Embrace the “Participation Economy.”

2. Engage early adopters.

3. Treat content as brand fuel.

4. Listen and activate social communities.

5. Create experiences and adventures.

6. Leverage disruptive schemas.

7. Stand for more than your bottom line.

  Vision Monday's senior editor Deirdre Carroll fields questions from the audience for Steve Hartman (l) and Jeff Fromm.
Some standout statistics Fromm pointed out were that the millennial is two and a half times more likely to be an early adopter of new technology than members of older generations; one third of millennials say they like a brand more when the brand uses social media; and 69 percent of millennials say they consider themselves “adventurous.”

What these “Brand Love Truths,” as Fromm called them, communicate is that this generation of consumers is ready and willing to have active relationships with the brands they choose and that this willingness, along with that of trying and utilizing digital platforms, can be the means to a happy end consumer and brand.

The next speaker, Steve Hartman, managing director, Urban Outfitters direct and marketing, pointed out attributes of the apparel store that connect to millennials: focus on culture, customer, marketing, social engagement and collaboration.

Urban Outfitters effectively reaches millennial consumers by relating to their desires and expectations. One way of doing this, Hartman explained, is to hire them. “Give them a platform to participate in the company,” he said. “Millennial marketing takes creativity and authenticity, and speaking in a way that they can relate to and is not corporate.”

Hartman presented company videos profiling real-life Urban Outfitters customers— a young male musician in San Diego, a female student artist in Los Angeles— each representing core values of the brand which positions itself toward those interested in individuality, personal style and do-it-yourself creativity.

Another engagement tactic Hartman highlighted was Urban Outfitters’ “No Tweet Left Behind” policy, in which the company attempts to answer each question and comment posted to its social media properties so that customers are assured they are heard—and, in true millennial form, pass that experience along to their peers. “People are so excited to be replied to,” he said. “And then they share that content and experience.”

Jeff Fromm
EVP, Barkley; Co-author, “Marketing to Millennials”

Jeff Fromm is the executive vice presient at Barkley, a marketing agency based in Kansas City, Mo., as well as co-author of “Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest & Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever.” On behalf of Barkley, Fromm spearheaded the Millennials research partnership with The Boston Consulting Group and Service Management Group. He is also the founder of ShareLikeBuy, a Millennial Insights & Consumer Trends Conference, co-author of four trends reports and the lead editor of the blog, Fromm has more than 25 years of brand marketing and new product innovation experience for Hallmark, KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce, Build-A-Bear Workshop, American Italian Pasta and other brands. He received his marketing degree from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. 6A2A0465.tif

Steve Hartman
Managing Director, Urban Outfitters, Direct and Marketing

Steve Hartman is the managing director of Urban Outfitters direct and marketing division. He is responsible for the e-commerce business as well as Urban Outfitters’ creative and marketing activities in North America. Prior to Urban Outfitters, Hartman held numerous leadership roles at ebay including overseeing advertising on and running eBay Partner Network, eBay’s global affiliate marketing network. He currently sits on advisory boards for Gundlach Bundschu Winery and Hartman has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon and dual MBAs from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and Columbia Business School at Columbia University.