MELBOURNE: In order to truly be embraced by Australian millennials, brands should relinquish control and let loyal consumer advocates help sell their products, a leading industry figure has said.

In the first of two articles written for Warc, Dion Appel, managing director of DDB Melbourne, argues that, thanks to social connectivity among this age group, the balance of power has shifted from companies to the peer group when it comes to influencing the purchase journey.

Australians are highly connected across most demographics, but millennials place particular emphasis on social capital generated by social media and are more disposed to brands that share their cultural values.

The power to influence millennials does not come from wealth, but from social status and social capital – based on trust, legitimacy and a proven track record. By utilising these valuable networks via key influencers, brands are well placed to benefit.

Successful brand marketing to millennials therefore relies on understanding where a brand potentially fits within young adult culture. (For more insight, read the first of Appel's exclusive articles: 'Social capital' and 'cultural infusion': how brands can engage Australia's millennials.)

The big – and difficult – next step for brands involves relinquishing control further, letting go and backing a commitment to millennials and allowing them to become true advocates.

Authenticity is critical to the process. (For more, including how brands can build brand resonance among millennials, read the second of Appel's exclusive articles: How consumer brand advocates can engage Australia's millennials.)

Brands targeting young Australians should also consider redefining what return on investment means to them. With a power shift putting influence in the control of consumers, marketers can't always control what is being said about their brand, so Appel suggests that the new approach ought to include a new metric: Return on Relationships (ROR).

Data sourced from Warc