Passion, surprise and expertise

Roberta Lombardo
Client Partner, Consumer and
Product Services
Kantar - Insights Division

What Millennials really want from brands and retail

When working on many projects I meet, listen to and interact with Millennials, and the most recurring theme, evident not only in what they say but also in their behavior, is their desire to connect with brands that are passionate, surprising and expert. This is especially the case when they are shopping, whether that’s in supermarkets and other physical stores or shopping online. You find the same trio of demands: passion, surprise and expertise. But what do these three words mean to them?

“Passionate”: brands that make me feel something immediately and intensely. An intense passion, centered on the present moment. Professor Michele Oldani, a psychologist who interacts on a daily basis with Millennials, clearly describes what passion is for Millennials: “Let us remember when we, Gen X, wanted our first bicycle. We desired it, we waited for and dreamt of it ... we got excited at the idea of the bicycle, which arrived after longing for it; today something different happens, because the bicycle arrives immediately or more quickly, so desire is more concentrated and becomes an experience.”

If we consider passion through the lens of retailing, this means that if a brand can create an exciting experience in the supermarket, or in an electronic retail chain, a millennial consumer feels that that brand is there for them. To be passionate, a brand must entertain people, enabling them to live an experience in a physical or digital

“Surprising”: for Millennials this is the ability of a brand to do something they didn’t expect; something that sparks something new in them ... it stimulates them, opens them up to new things. In short, it’s still a question of being able to provoke a reaction, spark a thought, a reflection and, indeed, also an action. If we think about retail brands, it means offering a service at a time that’s relevant to the individual; one that allows them to improve their life. And this ability to surprise also becomes synonymous with intelligence – the ability to pick up weak or unexpressed signals of need.

But it only comes full circle if there is also “Expertise”: expertise is the basis on which a millennial will take your brand into consideration: “You are what you do, you know how to do what you do, and I respect you.” In the supermarket I want to find you and your expertise, the one thing that you know how to do better than anyone else; be it the selection of products; be it the human contact of your people who help me in my choice. One area of expertise is enough, but you must be 100 percent expert at that. This is your brand purpose, the bond that you, the brand, forge with the consumer.

So, it’s better to be less passionate and surprising than to do something just for the sake of it, because if Millennials find out that your passion and surprise are hollow – simply an end in themselves – the castle comes tumbling down. Millennials do not compromise on this point.

And as in relationships between people, if these three ingredients are nurtured with continuity and conviction, brands can build longterm relationships with Millennials that last beyond the honeymoon period.

In the retail world, this means leveraging services to connect with Millennials. After all, what could be a more solid foundation to a relationship than a service that adds value? This can be the key to a long and vibrant relationship.