Are Millennials brand loyal? The answer's more complex than it looks.

Have you heard about Millennials lately? That fickle group of brand-killing consumers that's responsible for the downward spiral of staples like the NFL, Harley Davidson, and even Downy? It's a proven fact that unlike Boomers, Millennials are prone to bounce around to any brand that can keep their attention for more than 30 seconds, never really settling on a commitment…or are they?

What many view as a decrease in brand loyalty among Millennial consumers is actually just a shift in what loyalty looks like. It's not so much that Millennials aren't loyal, it's that they do loyalty differently.

To keep up, providers and healthcare marketers need to be proactive about understanding what this new version of brand loyalty looks like if they want to see success in some of their most central marketing initiatives.

How We've Defined Brand Loyalty
Baby Boomers emerged in the golden age of brands. They were conditioned during the “Mad Men" era of advertising and an explosion of consumer packaged goods. This is where they cut their teeth as consumers as well as when they became the foundation of how we define brand loyalty.

While Boomers had many more brand choices than generations before them, their rise as consumers was still defined by a relatively limited range of offerings. Their media entertainment mostly consisted of three TV channels and the local movie theatre, and most products came in a number of variations that you could count on one hand. They birthed brand loyalty, but did so in an environment of simple selection.

Millennials are maturing in a similar environment—a similar environment on steroids.

We live in a world where there are not only thousands of brands of hot sauce, but where a consumer's ability to buy now extends across the globe. This means yesterday's rubric for choosing products can leave even savvy buyers stuck in an endless loop of overthink. And it's not just packaged goods that run the loop—healthcare decisions also are on the same track. To survive, Millennials have learned to weigh positives and negatives and hold off on pledging their loyalty until it's been earned.

Again, it's not that Millennials aren't loyal. It's that their loyalty has to be genuinely won in competition with the hundreds upon thousands of other options they run across in their connected and distracted lives.

So What Does Millennial Brand Loyalty Look Like?
Understanding Millennial brand loyalty just takes a little insight into their habits and preferences to get started.

Take their opinion of private-label vs. national brands. According to a Cadent Consulting Group study, while just 39% of Boomers saw no preference between the two, that number jumps to 51% for Millennials. That's the opinion of a group that isn't swayed by big, beefy campaigns or being bombarded with television ads.

This generation has been exposed to less traditional media and in turn is invested in concepts like transparency, clean labeling, and sharing values with a brand. That means their loyalty is very much attainable, you've just got to work for it. Consider this statistic from an Elite Daily survey of Millennial preferences—60% said they're “often or always loyal to brands that they currently purchase."

The big takeaway here is that if you want to win Millennial loyalty, you have to start early, start honest, and focus on building a relationship to maintain connection as they progress through adulthood.

A New Day for Providers
For providers and the marketers who support them, this means the need for a little bit of catchup and reconsideration. While Millennials are focused on preventive care and are prime candidates for life-long relationships with healthcare entities, gaining their trust and business will require a different approach in a few ways.

Rethinking Value-Based Care
Let's look back at that Elite Daily survey: 75% of Millennial respondents said that it's either fairly or very important that a company give back to society instead of just making a profit.

This is a huge opportunity for providers since Millennials are not only focused on valuable outcomes for everyone, they're also invested in authenticity and respond positively to organizations who make the effort to improve their customers' experiences and outcomes. That perspective aligns nicely with any value-based care initiative and is something that marketers should consider being more open about.

Customized Options Are Everything
This is a generation of options. One that's not only been raised on multiple devices, but also the ability to customize their purchases and maximize convenience at every corner. Solutions like telehealth, mHealth offerings, and even Millennial-centered facility design are bound to resonate with these buyers.

Jump on Omni-Channel
Speaking of devices, that Elite Daily study also revealed that 87% of Millennials use between two and three devices “at least once daily on a daily basis." With so many of them second-screening during commercials (if they watch TV at all…47% of Millennials and Gen Xers don't) healthcare marketers need to rethink some traditional marketing practices and reshape them to fit the attention habits of millennials.

Invest in Reviews
Millennials value the opinions of others. A lot.

While only 3% go to news, magazines, and books before making a purchase, 33% visit blogs before making purchase decisions to help them determine what's authentic. Trust-building has to start at their level, so investment in reviews (not to mention social media engagement) will go a long way in founding those early healthcare relationships.

That concept of relationship is the true essence of millennial brand loyalty. It's based on authentic connection building, meaning that patient engagement will sit at the center of any loyalty that you can expect to earn with this generation in the future. The best place to start building that engagement? A silo-busting CRM that can track and give you quality analytics and give your millennial healthcare consumers the input and options they demand.

Want more insight into Millennial Marketing? Read our post on Healthcare Marketing that Resonates with Millennials.