Observations by Jaclyn Rosen

Insights from our CultureQ study this Fall revealed technology brands are setting expectations for brand leaders across categories. From industries as diverse as confectionery, retail, home cleaning goods, to make-up we’re seeing evidence of this. And speaking as a fluent digital native, or in other words a Millennial, I see opportunities out there for brands to deepen their relationships with people, based upon how my generation thinks about and utilizes technology.

So here my thoughts…

We all have two identities. No, I’m not talking about some creepy AOL chatroom alias circa 1999; I’m referring to identity that members of my generation casually contrive on technological platforms.

We no longer just maintain our “real-life” identities, comprised of personality, race, religion, and gender. We feel we must also maintain a current, faultless digitized image; the tweets we post daily, the Linkedin information we share weekly, and the Facebook defaults we update monthly.  While it’s not written in law, maintaining a presence on these platforms has become a kind of generational mandate, something necessary to remain socially acceptable. Statements like “I deactivated my Facebook months ago,” are usually followed by a gasp of disbelief and the immediate question of “why?”

While older generations integrate technology in their lives, many are frustrated by it and some remain highly suspicious of it. They often view it as intrusive; as my Gen Xer cousin says of my unceasing email texts; “it’s enough!”

Yet, how we use technology and the technological identities we carve out are much more meaningful than the superficial activities they appear to be.  As we discovered in our CultureQ study, people want their favorite brands to not only provide high quality products but also to enrich their everyday lives and invent new lifestyles they didn’t even know could exist. Apple pretty much defines how technology has done this; daily life must have been much harder back in the day - before they made the small things easier and more straightforward.

Through technology, and the way we interact with it, my friends and I can subscribe to a shared belief. As a generation we’re open to collaboration and speak the same virtual language irrespective of where we were born. Technology has created a distinctive kind of spirituality for our generation.

Technology offers the perfect platform for brands to help consumers work together. Through technology we’re able to virtually collaborate with each other and develop our ideas and innovations within real and virtual friendship movements. Our virtual friends are as willing to help us out with a quick click of a sent email. Take a personal example; while applying for a Public Relations Director position of the Panhellenic Council at my university, I wanted to best prepare myself for my interview. I located the most successful Panhellenic councils across the nation and reached out to numerous PR directors everywhere from New Jersey to California. Within hours, I received responses of ideas and events that worked for them in their positions at their schools. I had never met these people, but they welcomed my questions and proposal to collaborate.

And while brands are connecting Millennials through digital platforms, based on my experiences they could use technology to have us work together and inspire each other more. We already look to certain blogs and Instagram accounts to discover new clothes, new slang, even a new outlook (take for instance, Thought Catalog). So why can’t brands leverage this cultural insight more to help Millennials to discover more about themselves and simultaneously develop their own identity?

There’s also greater scope for brands to use technological applications and social media to eliminate negative corporate associations and reinforce a more friendly, helpful personality. Take Viacom, my friends and I perceive it as a friendly corporation rather than a remote, dominant, global one. Technology has helped them to achieve this through interacting with employees and clients about the issues that really matter to them, from the more personal (how should I write a good resume) to the global issues that form the basis of the water cooler conversations.  In so doing the brand is forming a relationship that feels less one you’d expect of a corporation and a more rounded relationship that consists of parent, friend, mentor etc.

In short, brands regardless of sector can learn a lot from how Millennials interact and relate through social media and digital applications. We want brands to help us collaborate, work together and, ultimately, inspire us. In 2013, I’m certain we’ll be seeing more brands replicating the dynamics and behaviors of our online friendships and the various purposes each fulfills in our lives. And why? Because nurturing deeper and stronger connections with us is just smart business.