Values Important to Communicate Has Shifted for Millennials to Friendship and Intelligence

NEW YORK, Nov. 5, 2014—According to newly issued research from Mindshare North America, the global media agency network that is part of WPP, badge brands—any brand that consumers use primarily for expressing their identity—that understand Millennial values of ‘Friendship’ and ‘Intelligence’ and its drivers will be best positioned to capture the estimated $200 billion of direct purchasing power(1) and $1.3 trillion in indirect consumer spending(2). The research, Brand Badges and the New Millennial Identity, explores the changing ways Millennials are building their identities and what the implications are for how brands succeed over the coming years.

“Millennials’ digitized social lives create a whole new way of showing their identities and also means they belong to larger active social groups,” said Mark Potts, Head of Insights, Mindshare North America. “This has created a higher premium on showing the world that they can navigate social relationships. This means a new role for today’s badge brands: helping Millennials externally communicate that they have friendship and intelligence values. Many of the old badge brand values around exclusivity don’t work anymore for this audience. Brands need to be inclusive and adaptive in their approach.”

The new Millennial values are influenced by major social drivers that include Boomer parenting, digitized lives, delayed adulthood, increased education, and The Great Recession.

  • Friendship: 60 percent of Millennials felt they were best represented by “things they do for other people."
    • Boomer parenting, an education focused on teamwork, social media, and settling down later in their 20s and 30s have all increased the importance of ‘friendship values’ among Millennials. This means communicating good intentions such as: kindness, generosity, honesty, humility, and social commitment.
  • Intelligence: 72 percent of Millennials believe that being smart "is one of their greatest assets."
    • Millennials are the most educated generation in history. They’ve also grown up in an increasingly service-based economy–requiring brains over brawn. Intelligence is therefore a key value to communicate, and means showing: Creativity, wit, self awareness, curiosity, ability to see through BS, social intelligence, and cultural knowledge.

The result is that Millennials’ desire to communicate that they have good intentions and are empathetic, fun, intelligent and pragmatic. As the research showed:

  • They expect good intentions from brands: 62% Millennials say supporting their employees show a brand has good intentions.
  • Empathy is a strong driver: 74 percent of Millennials “Understand people’s flaws and accept them"
  • The desire for fun, meaning and happiness distinguishes Millennials from Gen X: 79 percent "want their lives to have as much meaning as possible."
  • Experiencing the Great Recession heightened Millennial's value of pragmatism: 76 percent believe “drive is just as importance as intelligence.”

There are two categories of what brands can do. One involves bringing people in; co-creation. The other is around social responsibility and creating social meaning. A lot of companies strive for both, though the really hard thing with this generation is making sure these things are not seen as an add on. Any effort to put on an identity that seems forced will seem less authentic. If there’s anything that this generation has a really good radar for it’s sensing when someone is trying to market to them. It’s a tough line for brands to walk,” David Burstein, author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaping Our World and contributor to the study.

Badge brands that want to succeed with Millennials (18-34 year-olds), who represent 30 percent of the adult population, must take three critical steps:

  • Communicate Friendship Values
    • What are your principles, and do consumers understand them?
    • If you support your employees, shout about it
  • Show Your Smarts
    • Be curious (and show your curiosity) as a brand
    • Crossover your products & communications in unique ways
  • Assume your consumers are smart
    • Set up Friendship Values / Intelligence as brand KPIs
    • Build KPI & measurement plan around the key Millennial values

See the report: https://www.scribd.com/doc/245726568/Brand-Badges-and-the-New-Millennial-Identity 

To find out how your brand can become a Millennial Badge Brand, or to schedule a consultation or workshop presentation, contact:


Mark Potts

Head of Insights, Mindshare North America



Wendi Smith

Agency Communications & Content

Mindshare North America



Methodology: Mindshare conducted 42 online qualitative interviews with Millennial males and females aged 18-34; a representative survey of 1,000 Millennials aged 18-34, and interviews with 7 leading edge Millennials. The agency also consulted with David Burstein, author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaping Our World throughout the project.



1. Barkley, SMG, Boston Consulting Group (September 2011) American Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation.

2. Hartman Group (Q1 2014) Outlook on the Millennial Consumer: A New Syndicated Study for 2014


Posted on November 6, 2014 .