Brands Don't Understand Millennial Business Owners

Many brands still don’t know how to market to millennials, according to a study.

A majority of millennial who own small and medium-sized businesses report big brands just don’t understand them, meaning 50% of every marketing dollar is wasted, according to “Millennials Decoded” from Cargo, whose clients include Mercedes Benz, Lenovo and IBM. 

“Part of it is typical older generations' view of younger generations, especially given they don’t understand them -- but the bigger part is because they look at life, business, work and society in a different way,” says Cargo CEO Dan Gliatta. “And 'different' creates misunderstanding and misperceptions.”

The research leverages neuroscience and AI to demystify the emotional drivers of millennial small-business owners and debunk long-held stereotypes. 



The study finds millennials are not motivated by profits, and instead are driven by purpose and passion. This purpose-driven mindset extends to their expectations of the brands they work with. They trust and want to work with businesses that stand for a cause, according to the research.

“They are being lumped into the lazy, apathetic and narcissistic stereotype when they are actually cautious, calculated and conscientious. Because they question the status quo is the origin of the belief they are not willing to work hard,” Gliatta tells Marketing Daily. “They just have a different take on work: smarter, not harder.”

Millennials make decisions with heart and brain. While SBOs are often emotionally invested in business decisions, the Cargo study found that MSBOs balance both emotion and rationale in the decision-making process by reading more peer reviews and B2B websites than the generations before them.

“Another area where brands can win is being more conscientious themselves,” he says. “Millennials want to do business with brands that are focused more than on the bottom line and profits -- those brands that want to make a positive impact on society and the community. Brands that do this need to communicate it -- and, more importantly, practice what they preach.”

Technology is another issue, with the youngest of the generation concerned about loss of privacy and the scary nature of AI, while the oldest are worried about keeping up with the latest tech. Mid-age millennials, however, embrace technology and are eager to explore new solutions.

Brands need to understand this generation's mindset and how it affects how they shop and buy,  says Gliatta.

“Given their cautious mindset, they layer in more rational decision-making into their purchase journey. Brands need to focus more on the experience versus the features/benefits of product and service,” he adds.

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