The millennial brand paradox: Landor’s new research reveals how leading brands strike a balance between change and continuity

NEW YORK (4 November 2015) – Changing but true to identity. Personalized but inclusive of all. Principled but open to new ideas. Can a brand exhibit all these seemingly contradictory characteristics? Brands will have to if they want to succeed and stay on top of the market, according to new millennial consumer research conducted by Landor, the global strategic branding and design firm.

The research examines what millennials (a desired demographic because of their digital presence and influence on older and peer-group shoppers) really want from their brands. The agency hosted an online research community, speaking daily to 142 participants between the ages of 18 and 34, located in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and China. The goal was to uncover how real consumers talk about their favorite brands and gain insight into millennials’ brand expectations.


Key findings reveal:

  • Millennials seek long-term relationships with brands. As they evolve, top brands need to embrace change in ways that feel authentic, foster trust, and are respectful of their heritage and original core values.
  • Millennials support brands that make a personal connection with their consumers and are open to fan influence.
  • Top millennial brands are pillars of the community giving back to society, serious about sustainability, and treating both customers and employees fairly.
  • Millennials want brands that create customized experiences for them, but are still inclusive and accessible to all shoppers.

“As digital natives, millennials are accustomed to the rapid speed of the market and they expect brands to be as well,” said Lois Jacobs, chief executive officer of Landor. “This demographic has shifted the marketing landscape. We no longer live in an era of mass marketing. Going forward, brands will have to adapt exponentially faster and learn how to succeed in this marketing paradox: creating a personalized brand for a single shopper while simultaneously creating a brand for all shoppers.”

The research was conducted as part of Landor’s larger Global Agile Brand Study, the only report ranking global brands on their agility. Agility is a leading indicator of strong brand strength and financial success. Combining the millennial responses with BrandAsset® Valuator (BAV) data and real-world examples, Landor identified the top 10 global agile brands: Samsung, Android, Wikipedia, Google, Dyson, Apple, YouTube, Microsoft, Ikea, and Disney.

Thomas Ordahl, chief strategy officer of Landor, explains: “The millennial participants articulated surprisingly complex expectations that supported our BAV findings that successful brands must be agile and navigate a tension between change and continuity.”

Millennials reinforced Landor’s earlier finding that agile brands exhibit six key behaviors:

  • Principled: Knowing what they stand for and making a clear promise, but never stopping to look for fresh ways to deliver that promise.
  • Adaptive: Adjusting to new circumstances, being nimble to risk, and seeking opportunity.
  • Responsible: Caring for the world in which they operate and giving back to employees, communities, and the planet.
  • Multichannel: Using many channels and experiences to engage with customers at the right time, in the right place, and in the right way.
  • Global: Having a global mindset and advancing through global learning, even if operating only in one market.
  • Open: Thriving in a world of co-creation and personalization, engaging in ongoing conversations with customers.

Insights through creative storytelling

To determine if important brand values differ by region and to identify traits of favorite brands, Landor used creative online scenarios to collect brand stories and experiences. Millennials participated in moderated activities that included:

  • The World Expo: Participants from the same country selected the single best brand to represent their respective country, which they then shared with the global group. Winning brands included: Chick-fil-A for U.S., BBC for the U.K., Michel et Augustin for France, and Huawei for China.
  • Desert Island: To facilitate brand trait discussion, participants were asked to select which financial brands they would choose to be stranded on a desert island with, and assign each brand a role. Respondents said: Barclays’ product diversification would allow it to have amazing ideas for how to get off the island; PayPal’s customer service would mean it would try to sustain the lives of others; and CIC’s innovation and global presence would be the best brand to get everyone off the island and back home.
  • The Breakup: Participants were asked to name which brands they stopped using and explain why. Millennials “broke up” with Nutella, Pepsi, and Diesel for a variety of reasons, including resistance to consumer rewards programs and online interactions, discontinuing favorite products, and diminished quality.

To sum it up, Jacobs offers this observation: “Old standards of branding best practices—rigid consistency and structured decision making—simply won’t work. Successful brands must stay agile, honoring their core tenets while simultaneously evolving with lightning speed to stay fresh and relevant.”

For more information contact:

[email protected]

About Landor

As a global leader in brand consulting and design, Landor helps clients create agile brands that thrive in today’s dynamic, disruptive marketplace. Our work enables top brands—from Barclays to BMW and Tide to Taj—to stand for something while never standing still.

Landor’s branding services include strategy and positioning, identity and design, brand architecture, prototyping, innovation, naming and verbal identity, research and analytics, environments and experiences, engagement and activation, and interactive and media design.

Founded by Walter Landor in 1941, Landor pioneered many of the research, design, and consulting methods that are now standard in the branding industry. Today, Landor has 27 offices in 21 countries, working with a broad spectrum of world-famous brands. Clients include Barclays, Bayer, BMW, BP, FedEx, GE, Kraft Foods, Pernod Ricard, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, and Taj Group.

Landor is a member of WPP, the world’s largest marketing and communications firm. For more information, please visit and follow Landor on LinkedInFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


© 2015 Landor. All rights reserved.