This might come as an unpleasant shock, but here's the truth: Millennials are no longer buying your brand's product or service. Instead, they're buying your brand's values.
So what does this look like?
Well, first of all, it doesn't mean that if a Millennial is looking for an armchair, they'll suddenly decide to purchase a stand mixer instead because they like that brand's values better. It's not that products and services have become interchangeable. If a connected consumer (which includes Millennials and younger generations) wants to buy an armchair, they're still going to buy an armchair.
The difference--or at least, a large part of the difference--is that connected consumers have access to a truly unprecedented amount of information, and with that information comes power. They can access information about thousands of different armchairs made by hundreds or thousands of different brands, all within a matter of seconds.
Combine this power with the fact that 61 percent of Millennials are worried about the state of the world and feel personally responsible for improving it. Then you can see how important it is for brands to communicate and, what's more, authentically act out their values.
One of the companies I've been most impressed with in this regard recently is Hypergiant, an A.I. and machine intelligence provider that consults with Fortune 500 companies.
Founder Ben Lamm, a serial tech entrepreneur who's been working at the cutting edge of technology over the past decade, has been committed to living out Hypergiant's strong value set since the company first began.
"At Hypergiant, we don't talk about services or product offerings," he says. "We talk about a better world for everybody. We really want to be the guiding light for A.I. and do our part in delivering the world we were promised."
This focus on creating a better, more inclusive world for all people is evident throughout their marketing, especially as showcased in Hypergiant's newly released video, which company insiders humorously refer to as "Redacted Video Name" (a tongue-in-cheek homage to Hypergiant's stylish, futurist/government-research-inspired branding).
The official title, however, is the optimistic "A Better World." Narrated by Bill Nye, "A Better World" touches on such global, necessary issues as ending poverty, establishing world peace, and establishing a human colony on Mars and beyond. This is not the type of video I would expect a startup to create.
A.I., which is at the core of Hypergiant's products and services, figures in--but it's hardly front and center.
That matches the way Lamm sees his company. "It's not about A.I.--it's about creating a better world for everyone. And given that A.I. is a technology that is apex in nature, we now can help to usher in a better world using intelligent technologies."
Lest anyone question the effectiveness of this approach, here's something to consider: In Hypergiant's first year, the company grew from 4 employees to more than 130 and generated more than eight figures in revenue.
While it's easy enough to say, "Make sure to communicate and live out your brand values," it can be difficult to see exactly how a brand is supposed to do that. How, for example, do you clearly articulate those values in the first place?
Hypergiant holds an answer for this question, too. When we asked Lamm how Hypergiant clearly articulates those values, he responded, "We spend a lot of time asking, 'Why do we exist?' This is really the most important question. Anyone can build a business. Many people can grow them and even sell them. I see most companies focused on the how or the what. We really care most about the 'why.' There are a lot of 'claimed-to-be' A.I. companies, but what are they doing with their tech? Why should they or we exist? I think that's an important question that is at the core of who we are as a company and brand."
Answering those kinds of questions isn't always easy. However, in this day and age, when consumers are demanding authenticity and transparency from every brand they patronize, it's absolutely critical to do so.
In Hypergiant's case, that answer is not "to develop A.I. and deep learning products for businesses, infrastructure, and space exploration," even though that is, ostensibly, what it does. Instead, it's the concept of building a better world for all. And A.I. happens to be the way in which Lamm and his team believe they can best do that.
Companies looking to capture and retain connected consumers must take to heart the importance of values and transparency over their product or service. It's only by finding ways to authentically live out those values, while promoting honesty and transparency, that brands will be able to compete and, as HyperGiant exemplifies, justify their reason for existence in the first place.