How do you create a marketing campaign for today? What’s fundamentally important to your audience? How do you earn your trust?

These were the kinds of questions we asked of ourselves as Southerly met for our annual strategy day last week. (Exciting times are ahead, by the way.)

As a creative exercise, we discussed branding and marketing that particularly resonated with us in positive and negative ways: what we like and dislike about some of the branding campaigns we encounter daily. We wanted to ascertain our level of emotional attachment to brands we see all the time, and why.

Long story short, we concluded that what is fundamentally important to us as marketers is the effect we have on the generation below us – what we teach them and the example we set was notably the most important application of our creativity.

Won’t somebody please think of the children?

What is mindful marketing? Does it resonate in a genuine way, providing real value that someone can act upon or trust wholly? Does the message deceive or is it honest? And most importantly won’t somebody please think of the children?

World Economic Forum survey

Yes, we’re talking about those Millennials again. The results of a new survey by the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community – of 1000 20-30-year-olds across 125 countries – gives us perhaps one of the most global insights to date of a burgeoning business world being handed the baton from the previous generation.

For those after some guidance on the shape of their future marketing, here are a few Millennial morsels to chew on:

  • They put inequality and environment top of their agenda.
  • They want their job to offer them firstly the chance to make a difference; secondly the chance for personal development.
  • They want to work in the US and England, but will happily relocate for the right job, and will probably work until they’re 75.
  • Their most admired figures are Nelson Mandela, Pope Francis and Elon Musk.
  • Laptops, followed by smartphones, are their primary means of navigating the internet.
  • They are sceptical of the honesty of their mainstream media almost as much as their national governments, with an additional distrust of religious leaders and armed forces following closely behind.

Given what we already know about Millennials’ values, these findings mostly serve to confirm research so far. However, there are a couple of points there that can offer a deeper insight.

What’s abundantly clear is that the Millennial generation is emotionally driven, and as we know, emotion maketh the brand power.

Firstly, honesty amongst media and governments: recently I reported that online content that comes from brands is becoming more trusted than print and TV media. Millennials value straightforward, authentic, thought-leading, direct and truthful messaging, and that’s not something they necessarily feel they get from the more traditional sources.

You could say Jeremy Corbyn’s meteoric rise to win leader of the UK opposition is a reflection of this in today’s electorate, where the promise of a new, more ‘mindful’ politics superseded a wont to dissect the minutiae of policy.

The example we set is the most important application of our creativity

What matters to us…

In other words, what matters to us as marketers and indeed as people of the world of today aligns with the Millennial generation’s needs.

That Elon Musk – billionaire inventor, investor and engineer, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, chairman of SolarCity and co-founder of PayPal – features so prominently as someone Millennials look up to follows the theory. His entire portfolio is an exercise in the mindful future – the PayPal online payment revolution, commercialising space, sustainable motoring, the announcement last week that his Hyperloop company will start work on an almost frictionless train and just generally being an inspiring boss (see this Quora thread) – and this is what matters to his generation. The public doesn’t feel any resentment towards a billionaire that is truly seeking to make a difference; his attitude and vision resonate with ours. But he doesn’t do it for the kudos; he does it because it matters to him, too.

What also caught my eye is that just over a third of Millennials surveyed worldwide have an inherent distrust of religious leaders. And yet Pope Francis is their second most admired figurehead, beating even Musk. This generation is very forgiving, not just about brands that resonate emotionally with them, but about people that strive to make change. The current pontificate is seen as more accepting, open and transparent than ones previous. Our generation cares not where the message comes from – whether it’s a business leader they inherently trust, or a religious leader they inherently don’t – if the message is positive and seen to be making a change for the better, that’s what earns your trust.

They may not trust the institution but they’ll happily be proven wrong

Be real

Here’s something to think about. Writing last week on, Spencer Rascoff, CEO of US-based real estate company Zillow Group and employer of a majority of Millennials, said:

“Baby Boomers grew up during the post-war economic boom, an optimistic time filled with heroes. But Millennials as a generation have seen an awful lot, from the tragedy of 9/11 to the economic calamity of the Great Recession, and that has made them ultimate realists.”

The key word there is ‘realists’. A realist knows that change is incremental. Billionaires need to try new things to make world-changing innovations. A realist knows that the Pope won’t change perceptions of the church overnight, or that a political opposition candidate with idealist vision will take some time to change the political status quo, but they’re willing to give them a go. They may not trust the institution but they’ll happily be proven wrong.

And what’s most important is this is how we all fundamentally think. We want equality, truthfulness and something to be proud of.

As a marketer looking to engage Millennials, ask not what you can do for them, but what you would do for yourself. What matters to you? What campaigns will make you sit up and take notice? What would you invest your time in? Be true to yourself in what, and how you create your campaigns and you’ll be stood in good stead.