What If The Very People You Need to Connect With Have Trust Issues?

Marketers know millennials are essential for a brand’s future success. To put it into perspective, according to Brookings Institution, by the year 2020, one in three people will be categorized as a millennial.  

And when you drill down further, millennial women are at the epicenter of brand influence today. However, research shows they are less trusting and more skeptical of advertising than their male counterparts. This causes a road block for brands as millennials, and women in particular, change the marketing landscape as we’ve always known it. 

So how are brands supposed to gain trust with this growing, skeptical audience? Research was recently conducted that aims to help us understand what we can do to effectively connect with millennial women. The findings from “The Trust Dynamics of Millennial Women” revealed six factors that define trust for all millennials – validation, accountability, authenticity, transparency, expectations, and character.  



While all six factors play a role in defining trust, the most significant in terms of what is necessary to build a strong relationship with millennial women were found to be validation and character. The importance placed on these two factors illustrates how millennial women value the opinion of others when making purchasing decisions, and also the greater impact brands have on others and the larger community. 

When thinking about millennials, both men and women, it isn’t too surprising that this new research shows they prioritize validation more than any other generation in determining their patronage. Millennials are more likely to trust something if someone else has approved it. Millennials have grown up with constant access to reviews and blogs, so seeking validation is a common habit for them. When thinking about garnering trust, brands now need to consider how the group impacts the individual. 

While validation is a key factor for brands to consider when aiming to establish a foundation of trust with millennials, for millennial women specifically, the study revealed that who is approving or disapproving matters more than the review itself. The study found that compared to all other consumer groups, millennial women rely more on online peer reviews than expert opinions when making purchasing decisions. 

Millennial women spend time, do their research and really consider the profiles of the people when reading reviews. The study results also showed that women question whether or not a peer reviewer looked similar to them. So while brands may be hoping to shoot for “likes” and more Yelp reviews, it’s not necessarily the number or even the ratings that are important, but who is giving the review. 

Even though millennial women seek new experiences, when it comes to trust, they look for the familiar. This emphasizes the importance of brands to consider building communities of like-minded people who can engage with each other about what the brand offers. Creating a space that connects people and enables them to discuss products, experiences, and services allows a sense of trust and transparency to develop. 

Millennials’ emphasis on validation and community building also helps to explain their participation with – and the success of – the “sharing economy.” Brands like Airbnb and Uber facilitate relationships and assurances between participants in interactions that might otherwise be risky. Because validation is based on peer reviews, millennial women feel that they are a part of this community and tend to view these brands as trustworthy. 

The study also found that millennial women expressed the importance of a brand’s character. In many ways, character and validation go hand-in-hand when it comes to building trust with millennial women. 

The power and reach of digital communities has brands under a microscope, making brand behavior subject to increased scrutiny. Users are validating and shaping the character of today’s brands, and millennial women would go so far as to stop using a product or service if a company engaged in questionable or unethical behavior. The importance of brand character and peers validating this character as good is crucial for these women to give their trust.

Brands need to start facilitating connections among users to be successful with this highly influential group. If brands build environments that cultivate validation among their users, they have a shot at building a stronger character in the eyes of millennial women.

1 comment about "What If The Very People You Need to Connect With Have Trust Issues? ".
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  1. Jackie Bird from Redbean Society, LLC, August 26, 2015 at 12:10 p.m.

    Excellent commentary! Further, to these generational values we must also add the cultural filter. Did you know that 43% of all U.S. millennial women are multicultural and over half of these Hispanic? The context of validation, character, authenticity, etc takes on a whole new dimension when we talk with consumers who are generationally millennials but culturally different and even more highly connected digitally than their non-multicultural peers. Not all millennials are equal. Brands also need to consider variations on these themes to not only build their character and trust among multicultural millennials but to leverage their strong influence. 

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