Commentary

Bet Your Brand ... On Trust

When the truth is found to be lies, and all the hope within you dies.
Don't you want some Brands to Love?
Don't you need some Brands to Love?
You gotta find some Brands to Love.

Yes, the Coen brothers got the classic Jefferson Airplane lyrics a little wrong, but let's (hint) hope that brand marketers don't make the same mistake. Trust, based on truth, equals credibility, in interpersonal relationships as well as for people/brand relationships.

Edelman's recent 8095 (born 1980-95) study of how Millennials connect with brands clearly demonstrates that brand trust is the sine qua non of marketing in the social media age. According to Edelman's research, 8 of 10 Millennials have taken some form of personal action on behalf of a brand they consider trustworthy. Involvement ranges from sharing brand experiences with friends and family, on- and offline, to joining online communities and posting reviews. Better watch out, however, because Millennials are just as activist when a brand experience fails to meet their expectations.

That New Brand Religion
Happily, these newly empowered Millennials -- an even larger generational cohort than their Boomer parents -- in short, want some brands to love. According to 8095, they are already significantly defining global brand trends through their actions.

The upshot for marketers, PR practitioners and social media gurus cannot be overestimated:

Millennials see brand relationships as a form of self-expression. Brand preferences compete with religion and ethnicity as leading personal identifiers.

Information is key to influence -- more info coming from multiple channels is welcomed, as 8095ers seek from four to seven sources in their decision-making process.

Brand activism is a core value -- more than half say they would volunteer to try new products from a "preferred brand," and then post online reviews.

The reverberation goes on forever -- the ripple from the brand pebble goes out to family and friends personally and on social networks, where it lives forever.

My Brand is "Me"
Other recent research, including an ExactTarget study of Facebook fans, suggests that Millennials publicize their brand preferences as a means of self-definition. In other words, brands are an integral aspect of their personalities. One's Facebook page, which includes their interests in music, movies, books, products, places, people, etc., "is a venue for self-expression." For many, favorite brands become a key aspect of one's personality.

So what steps can marketers, and communicators, take to reinforce their brands' images with Millennials, to become a brand someone needs to love? Number #1, #2, #3 ... inspire Trust, which only stems from an open, quality and responsive dialogue with brand fans. And that means the C-suite and CMO must end the corporate-speak and cede control of the online "conversation" to authentic brand voices -- employee ambassadors.

Brands that engage their own employees to spread the word about their real brand culture may very well come to realize that when the truth is found, all the joy within you lives while trust resounds and profits multiply.

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