Advertising & Marketing

Millennials Evaluate Corporate Reputation Through a New Lens

Millennials around the globe are forging different paths than older generations—from their use of e-commerce and sharing economies to their healthy habits and money matters. While this generation hasn’t amassed the full potential of their wealth yet, their youth and large size—they comprise one-fourth of the planet’s population—make Millennials a growing consumer force that businesses must reckon with. So understanding what influences their perceptions of corporations and ultimately their purchase decisions is essential knowledge for companies today.

Millennials comprise about one-third of “Opinion Elites,” an influential subset of the public who are highly informed, engaged and active when it comes to social and business issues. Around the world, Opinion Elites of all ages are increasingly inquisitive and knowledgeable about the companies they choose to buy from. And according to findings from a 2014 Nielsen study among Opinion Elites in 16 countries about corporate reputation, this group actively learns about companies, often before they make purchases.

However, just as Millennials’ shopping, dietary and financial decisions differ from those of older generations, younger Opinion Elites (aged 18-34) focus on different qualities than their older peers when assessing a corporate reputation. The good news for organizations, these Millennials are more receptive toward and give greater credit to companies across different locations and industries—provided their other priorities are met.


Not surprisingly, Opinion Elites of all ages typically feel most favorable toward companies with headquarters in their home country. However, potentially in light of globalization, younger Opinion Elites appear less focused on country pride than their older counterparts. These young and informed individuals have stronger overall impressions of multi-national companies (MNCs) in general, as well as those headquartered outside of their country.

After their home country, all generations of global Opinion Elites view companies with U.S.-based headquarters most favorably, followed by those with corporate headquarters located in other developed markets. However, those 18-34 lead these positive attitudes, with notably more favorable views toward MNCs headquartered in “developing” countries like China, Brazil and India. This has significant implications for the future as global companies work daily to maintain and grow their license-to-operate in all corners of the world and in the context of emerging competitors.

Just as younger Opinion Elites aren’t as picky about where a company is based as their older counterparts, they’re also open to a diverse set of industries. This young subgroup has more positive perceptions of government, financial services and banking, three of the least reputable industries overall, than older peers. In addition, a related 2014 Nielsen study in 16 countries found that high percentages of Future Talent, those who are close to graduating college or newly working professionals, are willing to consider employment in these industries, as well as technology and media/entertainment. Again, this raises interesting issues relative to how industry reputation can affect an organization’s ability to create competitive advantage through a highly-skilled workforce in the future.

Still, young opinion elites’ greater receptivity to companies across markets and industries come with certain caveats.


Putting salary and benefits aside, Future Talent view advancement opportunities, work-life balance and employee treatment as the most important factors for employment. But enabling Future Talent to make a difference and having a strong corporate reputation both also play a role when they consider a prospective employer—especially in emerging markets.

In line with Future Talent’s focus on positive change and similar to Millennials around the globe, younger Opinion Elites say they care a lot about companies’ social and environmental impacts. However, Millennials define doing good differently from those who are older. Among younger Opinion Elites, efforts related to protecting the environment have a greater ability to elevate reputation. Meanwhile, older Opinion Elites prioritize philanthropic and social contributions over the environment. 


Engaging with Opinion Elites—especially those aged 18-34—and Future Talent means navigating today’s increasingly digital world, which allows individuals to be hyperconnected to information, companies, brands, etc. From search engines to social media, Opinion Elites are engaging with companies in a variety of ways across digital formats, with younger Opinion Elites and Future Talent leading digital use across platforms. Therefore, those looking to successfully reach Millennials will increasingly need to leverage many different channels as part of a long-term strategy.

As this emerging segment of the marketplace continues to come of age and proactively learns about the type of companies they do business with—and how companies behave around the world—digital will likely play an increasing role in how Millennials think about and interact with corporations. The challenge for reputation managers is to proactively manage their corporate story to be accessible, engaging and relevant to tomorrow’s influencers.


Nielsen’s 2014 Global Reputation Study with Opinion Elites is the second annual installment of the study. The research consisted of a 25-minute, online survey conducted between Sept. 24 and Oct. 16, 2014, with 4,982 interviews across 16 markets. All Opinion Elites met the following criteria: aged 18+, follow national business issues closely, highly informed about those issues and regularly participate in influential behaviors. Results were weighted to be representative of key Opinion Elite population demographics present within each country sampled. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for consumers’ propensity to be online.

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