How Brands Fail Millennials

February 11, 2015
One Way by John Fraissinet

One Way by John Fraissinet under CC

Millennials are now the biggest age group in the United States so it goes without saying that for a company to be successful it must know how to attract, engage and retain these customers. However, many companies, even new startups, are completely failing regarding engagement with this generation.

These failures are compounded along digital mediums, such as social media, because Millennials share, a lot. Therefore, their word-of-mouth can easily become amplified. Millennial Marketing really nails how important this interaction is in “Why Idea Brands Win With Millennials” by identifying the importance of the two-way conversation.

The Non-Response Failure

It is this two-way conversation that brands are bungling by opening up communication channels (forums, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) viewed as bi-direction to Millennials, but executed as uni-directional. Most often this plays out in the form of a non-response: A customer reaches out along a communication channel setup by the company, but receives no response.

Example One: Medium

Confused about how to best utilize Medium’s platform I reached out for guidance. At this point I was mostly happy with medium and I feel connected enough with their brand to engage:
Medium FailureNo response. A cold shoulder. Another tweet the following month is similarly ignored. Feeling slighted, I’m starting to move my publishing off Medium and I no longer recommend the platform to others. Medium’s mismanagement of the two-way conversation takes me from avid supporter to detractor.

Example Two: Banff Mountain Film Festival

I love the Banff Mountain Film Festival, I’ve attended every event in the area for three years. However, after their last Radical Reels tour in Silicon Valley something bothered me… Since I cared about this brand a lot I wanted to share my feedback:


Here Banff handled this communication elegantly. I feel validated and appreciated by the brand. Even though I felt a little unsure when writing my inquiry, their response reassures all my doubts. I go back to simply raving about them.

Example Three: Wunderlist

The non-response problem is not unique to social media. In this last example, I was about to switch from iOS Reminders to Wunderlist, but Wunderlist was missing one key feature I needed: Groups. Luckily, Wunderlist had a feature request page. This was great because it felt like I had a voice! However, the feature I wanted had over 7k up votes and was created almost three years ago with any acknowledgement of the request by the company over that time.
Wunderlist Group Feature
Seeing this non-response, I lost all brand loyalty and trust in the service. I nearly didn’t use Wunderlist at all, because I was so frustrated that they were ignoring such a large number of users on its own communication platform. In the age of Snowden, Heartbleed and hacks, trust is a big deal with Millennials, especially for internet services. For me at least, trust is not recovered easily. Even month later, when I received Wunderlist messaging that were working on that Groups feature it did not quell my distrust because again this mechanism was used as a one-way channel.
Closing Thoughts
  • Don’t open a communication mechanism if you are unable to maintain it.
  • Most brands kill for user feedback so acknowledge your users when they reach out to you.
  • Correctly handled communication fosters a dedicated and loyal user base who will consistently speak highly of your brand.