Millennial girl and guy hanging out

How Can Brands Connect More Deeply With Younger Consumers?

The bonds formed between consumers and brands can be a powerful form of commitment and can even be akin to love. This is especially true among Millennials and Gen Z. So in order to cultivate deep, meaningful, and mutually-beneficial relationships with these groups, brands and marketers need to understand how young people go about forming attachments today.

As cultural experts who have grown up with Millennials and Gen Z, we at Insight Strategy Group have a deep understanding of who these consumers are and what that means for brands. We have ingrained ourselves in their world and know firsthand that what resonated with past generations isn’t always the case for them.


What Love and Loyalty Mean Today

While love and loyalty may seem like timeless qualities, things are different these days. We know that Millennials and Gen Z approach commitment in a vastly different way compared to previous generations. Perhaps the most pronounced feature of their world is the seemingly infinite choices they have, and the technology at their fingertips has fueled their access to these options.

I feel like there is always a better option out there — like the next person might be much, much better.
– Male, Age 18-24

These dynamics shape how young people think about themselves, connect with each other, and interact with brands. Millennials and Gen Z give brands more weight in their lives than past generations. Many of the factors that influence how they form relationships with people are also true of how they form emotionally-driven relationships with brands.

The Cascade of Commitment

So what matters most to Millennials and Gen Z? Topping the list are their duties, others, and themselves. However, commitment to the self rises above duties and others. Young people believe that being good to yourself equates to being a better version of yourself across all aspects of your life and is the foundation of all other relationships and commitments.

You need to be happy with yourself before you can find happiness with another.
– Female, Age 25-34

For example, while finding a significant other is still a top priority, the prioritization of self and the abundance of choice impacts how Millennials and Gen Z form relationships and what they look for in a lover/partner. The path is more complex than ever before. In relationships, young people favor:

  • Independence over dependence
  • Passion over stability
  • Multiplicity over “one and only”

Young people see relationships as complementing personal growth, not fueling it. Therefore, they’d rather have a partner who is passionate than stable. Stability isn’t necessary because they are determined to rely on themselves. They are also aware that they’ll likely have changing needs throughout the course of their lifetimes and that they can fall in love many times. You might say that, for young people today, commitment is contingent.

Only 1 in 10 say that they are committed to being committed.


Where Do Brands Fit In?

Within this worldview, brands face both peril and possibility. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is that brands are simply not as top of mind as duties, others, and self. Furthermore, commitment and love don’t go hand in hand for brands. Commitment to a brand is a fairly functional affair. Does the brand deliver on its basic premise or promise? Love for a brand, on the other hand, is about a deeper degree of alignment. Does the brand share their values and ethics? In this sense, love for a brand is similar to love for a partner. Young people look for brands that complement who they are, what matters to them, and what they want to accomplish. For example, does a brand exhibit a true commitment to the environment or to a shared social cause?

It is harder to love a brand than be committed to a brand because you need to have passion and trust. It takes commitment steps to fall in love with a brand.
– Female, Age 25-34

To earn this deeper level of affection, brands and marketers need to activate against what young people prioritize in relationships to create more meaningful relationships with them.

Brands can do this by feeding Millennials’ and Gen Z’s:

  • Independence by helping them form their identity
  • Passion by tapping into the causes they care about
  • Multiplicity by showing that you as a brand appreciate them as a consumer and understand their changing needs

What Are the Benefits for Brands?

By aligning with young consumers in these ways, brands can in turn elevate their impact by becoming part of how Millennials and Gen Z address what is most important to them: self, duties, and others. Tapping into dedication, passion, and identity will increase brand advocacy among target audiences. Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to promote your brand, engage with you on social media, and wear you as a badge of honor when they feel like you are providing what they want most from their most meaningful relationships.


Interested in finding love with Millennials and Gen Z? Contact Insight Strategy Group to see how your brand can become a perfect match.