Never underestimate the power of transparency, especially when trying to appeal to Millennials. According to recent research by celebrity branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev, hip-hop superstar Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter has an authenticity problem. The study found that of the 80 celebrities presented to a field of over 1,000 Millennial consumers, Jay-Z was actually the least prominent when it came to purchasing influence.
How could this be? Didn’t “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” Jay-Z’s most recent album, go platinum this past summer? The answer is yes, but this has nothing to do with whether or not Generation Y thinks the rapper and media mogul is cool or not. This is all about trust; and the results of Sehdev’s research reveal that Millennials don’t necessarily view Jay-Z as authentic. That might not be any money out of Shawn Carter’s pocket in terms of record sales, however it could be a problem for companies such as Samsung, which brought him on to be the face of the brand with the release of the S4.
Jay-Z’s failure – if you want to call it that – as a brand spokesman is simply the face of a larger Millennial trend: the group values the aforementioned concept of transparency. Generation Y has largely grown up with the world at its fingertips, thanks to the Internet. Information is readily available through a variety of different media, and companies that haven’t been shy about publicizing their philanthropic efforts and social consciousness are deemed most trustworthy.
Starbucks, a brand that inhabits the same amount – if not more – of the Millennial psyche as Jay-Z, has made it a point to put all of their efforts on display.
“Hyper-transparency is a must. It's not something we should be afraid of; it's something we welcome," said Starbucks environmental impact director Jim Hanna at the We First Social Branding Seminar in Los Angeles this past October. One of Starbucks’ more recent endeavors has been to make all of its paper and plastic cups recyclable by 2015. “We're putting stakes in the ground for accountability and taking customers on the journey in meeting our targets," Hanna continued. This is one of the reasons Starbucks has been highlighted as one of America’s most trusted brands by numerous sources.
Jay-Z’s case can be applied to brands – be they corporate or personal – throughout the world. Many Millennials view him as a money-hungry, “anything-for-a-buck” figure. Hey, we live in a capitalistic society, don’t we? To each his own? The reality is that this opposes the image that most Millennials want for their leaders. If Mr. Carter and brands in general want to form a relationship with Generation Y that goes beyond sales, then the simple answer is to lay it all out there.