How brands can create millennial passion

Filmstaden Media

August 27, 2019

Millennials have emerged as a generation of critical customers. This demographic group is not easily conquered, they tend to have a closer relationship with the brands that they love, to which they are extremely loyal. The so-called Generation Y doesn’t care about printed coupons or chatterbox car dealers, they tend to prefer easily redeemed promotion codes and online shopping. They really care about the story behind the brands: What's the brand’s environmental impact? What are their ethical practices? Does it have great customer service?

"Passion is the genesis of genius."
- Galileo Galilei

Defining passion

Before jumping to the results, let’s define better what do we mean by “passion”. Nowadays, people might have a passion about their favorite sports team, surfing in Hawaii, or for the latest technological development, even for their jobs. Intellectual passions in a modern context are most often related to non-natural needs, but may nevertheless trigger equally strong feelings and behaviors as natural needs. In this context, passion should be a combination of high arousal and positive motivation, an intense feeling of approach that makes you desire and daydream about the object of passion.

A ballerina crouching low on pointe.

A passionate response manifests itself with physiological indicators that are utterly unconscious (e.g., changes in heart rate, respiration, pupil dilation, grip strength, etc.). These, together with a set of cognitive and emotional reactions in the brain are tightly related to the following processes:

  • Stronger perseverance: More energy spent to obtain the object of passion.
  • Higher subjective willingness to buy.
  • More mental preoccupation: Thinking, visualizing and daydreaming about the object of passion.
  • Lower price sensitivity towards objects of passion.

The study also included a better understanding of what millennials were passionate about, and the below graph shows what the top scorers were:

What we did

We collected a sample of 30 participants between 18 and 34 years old and instructed them to daydream and browse the internet for their objects of passion while scanning their brains. In a second round of the study, we did a multi-brand test to see how each brand was performing and if they were hitting or missing Millennials’ deepest desires. Here we tested video commercials, websites, static banners and brand logos for each of the brands included. The brands featured included big names of passionate brands like Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Arla, or Samsung.

The results

As Barbara Corcoran says, “You can’t fake passion.” We know today that purchase decisions are not only rational, but the emotional engagement plays also a key role. Knowing this can be extremely valuable to brand managers. So let’s explore some of the main results:

  1. The expectation phase produces high engagement: The highest emotional engagement in millennials didn't come when experiencing the passion but when searching or waiting for it. These effects are well known when the new Game of Thrones season is about to be released, or right before the launching of the new iPhone. It is crucial for marketers and product developers to understand and learn how to leverage these emotional experiences created by this anticipation processes.
  2. Even higher passion: Sometimes brands are able to trigger higher passion than consumers’ own passions. Yes, you read it right. Some brands generate sustained interest and desire beyond people’s own pleasures. This is done with great communication efforts and a strong, coherent brand personality that Millennials identify with.
  3. It's not only about marketing: Capturing millennials’ hearts is a hard job, but it pays off. Turns out expected passionate brands are not necessarily more desired by customers. To truly conquer passion in Millennials, a brand needs to focus their efforts in the whole customer journey, having successful experiences in every touchpoint.
  4. Interaction means passion: Finally, interactive media materials, such as websites or apps, are able to trigger higher passionate responses in general. Although not surprising, this finding has important implications in the way brands communicate their messages. If your firm is launching a new product, this model tells us that allowing people to interact with it is the key to enter their wish list.

A Passion meter for future studies

Thanks to machine learning, we were also successful in creating a Passion metric. The model predicts >90% of passion responses, by testing consumer responses in the following categories: Cars, Dance, Make-up & hairstyling, American football, Obstacle Course Race, Workout & strength, and Drawing. Now, we are able to test the extent to which any brand overlaps with it. This allows us to provide specific guidelines to increase passion responses and therefore generate more interest, willingness to buy and reduce price sensitivity in new offerings. And of course, we didn't shy away from making a Brain Passion infographic to capture the essence of the study and findings:

External Links

Filmstaden produced an infographic dedicated to understanding passion in millennials, wherein the neuroscience is a major part (in Swedish).