Ian Philpot

A couple of years ago, the Logos Quiz Game app was one of the most downloaded apps on Apple’s App Store. People all over the world were racking up scores based on the brand logos that they recognized.

The app reminded me of small documentaries teachers used to make my class watch where kids my age identified logos faster than famous world leaders. And it was bad that they recognized Taco Bell but didn’t know FDR. And I was bad because I did the same thing.

(What my teachers didn’t recognize is that it was their generation’s job to stop that from happening. It was probably too late.)

Now that my generation is grown up (Millennials unite!), we aren’t loyal to any of the brands we recognized. Or, at least, we’re not loyal in the same way that our parents are.

Traditional Loyalty Model

My grandfather has only ever owned cars manufactured by General Motors. His first car was a ’57 Chevy Bel Air, and he currently drives a Chevy Impala.

When GM has been through trouble or controversy, my grandfather never waivers. He wouldn’t dare drive another type of car. He doesn’t trust anything else.

New Loyalty Model

My wife and I were recently in the market for a new car. There were some brands we trusted and some we didn’t. But, at the end of the day, we wanted vehicles with high user satisfaction and were recommended by friends.

In the end, we bought a Nissan because it matched the criteria of our search. If we had to buy another car today, we may go with another make entirely.

The Difference

In today’s world, brand recognition gets a company in the door. But just because I’ve seen more GM commercials, that doesn’t mean I want a GM. GM hasn’t done anything more for me than Ford or Honda at this point. Sure, my grandfather loves GM, but he’s in love with the GM of his youth. They’re not the same GM today.

I will say that I wouldn’t go to a car dealer and buy a vehicle from a manufacturer I didn’t know. I would likely go home and do some research before making a purchase—which would increase my brand awareness. But that doesn’t fix the problem.

Just because I can recognize a brand, doesn’t mean I trust it.

When I have no experience with a brand, my loyalty lies in my relationships with others and their interactions with that brand. Because I trust my friends over brands, and more than 80% of the rest of my generation agrees. (Also read “People Want to Follow People.”)

What This Means

Loyalty and trust and closely connected, and they mean a lot to millennials. But millennials heartily disagree with the Citizen’s United ruling that corporations should be treated like people. Because corporations do things we don’t always agree with, so we don’t trust them.

Millennials trust their friends. Why? Because my friend’s real-life experience is more valuable than the experience of some actors in a commercial. (Which is to say that millennials value truth over false truth.)

When mainstream advertisers understand that real-life experiences are more important ads, the marketing game will change.

Until then, I’ll keep trusting the people I really know over the brands I don’t.