The millennial generation is alternately revered and maligned by the media with many holding a skewed, stereotypical perception when in truth, millennials are a highly educated generation with fast-paced lifestyles. Typically they’re multi-taskers, highly connected, tech-savvy, enjoy instant gratification, want work-life balance and flexibility, are highly collaborative and value transparency i.e. openness and honesty in both their personal and professional lives.
There is no denying that the so-called Generation Y or Gen Y is a force to be reckoned with – particularly when it comes to branding. Right now the median age of the world population is 28, there are more than 1 billion millennials around the world, and they are definitely consumers. Their spending habits are vastly different from the generations before them. Many aren’t interested in savings or equity, and tend to view higher portions of their income as discretionary. In the United States alone, millennials have a purchasing power of $170 billion, with that number expected to rise to $1.4 trillion by 2020.
Gen Y is less likely to spend on real estate or vehicles, but they’re heavy spenders in categories like food, clothing, electronics, and entertainment. Hanover Research reports that millennials are 52 percent more likely to make impulse purchases than older shoppers, and 78 percent more likely to shop with merchants who offer reward or loyalty programs.
Why Market Your Brand to Millennials?
Appealing to millennials can boost much more than the bottom line for your brand. The first generation born in the digital era, millennials not only enjoy spending – they’re highly connected, and they love to talk about their purchases and make recommendations to others, both online and in person. Gen-Yers can be powerful brand advocates, if you can manage to appeal to them. This demographic also has the highest rate of online research and purchasing.
According to a Google study for the 2013 holiday season:
- 95 percent of millennials used online resources for holiday shopping
- 88 percent of millennials with smartphones shopped from their devices
According to a recent study from strategic research firm Edelman Berland:
- Millennials are “alpha influencers,” with 7 out of 10 believing it’s not only their right, but their responsibility to share brand feedback – good or bad – with others
- The economy is a key factor for millennials, with the majority hoping for economic stability – which prompts them to spend more heavily than other generations
- When the right approach is taken, millennials are highly open to brand advertising and engagement strategies – 80 percent want brands to entertain them, with 40 percent looking for the ability to co-create products and services
What is the right approach when branding for millennials?
When we’re working with a client to develop they’re branding strategy to target millennial consumers we have to consider this audience and their needs very differently to other demographics. The following top three strategies are always core to our planning and will help you generate brand appeal for this very powerful demographic and help you get your brand into the enthusiastic hands of these very influential millennial customers.
Top 3 Millennial Branding Strategies
1. For Millennials, Social Media and Video Rule
The millennial generation has never known life without the Internet, and most can’t remember a time before cell phones. Social media is a way of life for this generation, they’re always connected. Facebook and Twitter are major players – but the go-to network for millennials is YouTube.
A recent survey commissioned by Variety magazine found that among teens and young adults, YouTube stars shine brighter than celebrities. The top five most influential figures in the lives of these young people are not Hollywood celebs, but YouTube superstars. In fact, YouTube-famous figures comprise 6 of the top 10, and half of the top 20 most influential people for the millennial generation.
Image via www.variety.com
Examples of these YouTube superstars include Alfie Deyes (age 21) and Zoe Sugg (age 24), aka Zoella from the UK. If you haven’t heard of them, then you’re probably what they’d classify as ‘old’. Their hard core fans are 13 to 17 year olds who don’t watch TV in the living room, but sit in their bedrooms with their ipads! With 3.2m and 6.2M subscribers respectively on YouTube alone, not to mention 1.8M and 2.4M Twitter followers coupled with 1.8M and 3.2M Instagram follwers, they’ve assumed a position in modern youth culture previously held by members of boy bands, girl bands and Hollywood heart-throbs, except unlike them they can’t sing or act.
If you were to assess their clout in TV rating terms, they come in behind ‘Downton Abbey’ but well ahead of ‘Question Time’ or against Twitter followers they both massively outrank Kylie Minogue or Lily Allen.
However don’t underestimate these entrepreneurial millennials. Like their other YouTube superstar friends, they know and understand what keeps their core target audience entertained and they give it to them in spades – while earning very substantial revenues! Fundamentally they both run very successful video blogs or vlogs. Alfie Deyes also recently published ‘The Pointless Book’ which has spent weeks at No.1 on the Sunday Times bestseller list and Zoella’s novel ‘Girl Online’ comes out later this month.
For brands looking to tap the millennial market, video is the dominant social medium. More than half (55%) watch online video several times a day, on multiple devices – and millennials have access to an average of 7.1 devices, including PCs and mobile. On average, millennials watch more than 500 online videos per month, and 34% of millennials watch more online video than television.
The key to marketing your brand to the millennial demographic through video is entertainment value. The more entertaining your brand content, the more likely it is to go viral. Such is the case for one of the most popular and highly effective online video campaigns of 2013 – a public service announcement (PSA) created for Metro Trains.
Metro Trains deliberately targeted the millennial generation when the brand created an animated video called “Dumb Ways to Die.” With purposely race-and gender-neutral “blob” characters, a catchy 3-minute song, and the juxtaposition of cute characters meeting gruesome death during a cheerful tune, Metro Trains’ message to stay safe around trains made a tremendous impact.
The video has more than 90 million YouTube views to date, earned $60 million in media impressions – and most importantly, the campaign reduced rail-related accidents by 20 percent.
2. Millennials Believe in Engagement and Participation
Marketing your brand to millennials requires a change in mindset. This generation doesn’t like being talked to or marketed to – they prefer to market with their favourite brands. They turn away from broadcast messages and embrace conversations. They don’t want to simply hear your brand story – they want to participate, get feedback and experience a sense of belonging and being part of it.
They want to recommend the brands they love to others, and strongly prefer peer recommendations over anything else. A survey from SocialChorus found that 91% of millennials trust friends for product recommendations.
To reach millennials on social media and through other channels, your brand must engage them. Banner and sidebar ads are no longer effective for this demographic – in fact, since most millennials have spent so much time online, they no longer even notice these traditional forms of digital advertising. Instead, your social media presence should be a two-way conversation between your brand and the millennial audience.
Co-creation is another powerful engagement strategy for millennials. They’re looking for a personalized customer experience – preferably one that lets them make a real difference and contribute to your brand in some way. Millennials place a high value on transparency and feedback, and co-creation strategies demonstrate your brand’s willingness to lay it all on the line.
Global hotel brand Marriott International is reaching the millennial market through several co-creation campaigns. The company’s Facebook page allows fans to create a kitchen, and they’ve released a free game app that takes players on a virtual journey to explore the world – and enters them in drawings to win hotel stays through reward points. But the most ambitious co-creation project is their “Travel Brilliantly” campaign: a website encouraging viewers to submit their own ideas for food and drinks, style and design, check in/checkout processes and more through a series of monthly challenge contests.
3. Brand with Meaning and Give Back to Get Millennials in Your Corner
In many cases, millennials have been unfairly tarred with a broad brush painting them as selfish and inwardly focused. The infamous “The Me Me Me Generation” article that graced the cover of TIME Magazine’s May 20, 2013, issue encapsulates this portrayal – though the article’s subtitle goes on to say, “Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents: Why they’ll save us all.”
Image via www.time.com
The millennial generation is looking for more than mere products. This generation wants to place its loyalty and dollars, euros or pounds into brands that stand for something – and conversely, they’ll shun companies with negative messaging behind either their brands, or their practices. It was negative messaging behind a clothing company that all but destroyed their millennial customer audience last year.
Global fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has always seemed a little size-ist, as they don’t manufacture clothing above a large. However, the issue went largely un-discussed until May of 2013, when A&F CEO Mike Jeffries was quoted as saying he “didn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wanted thin and beautiful people.” He also stated that, “People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids’.”
This obvious discrimination sparked outrage among millennials, who took to the streets and social media to mock the brand. One 26-year-old reacted by donating Abercrombie & Fitch clothing to homeless people – and recording the campaign on video to share online. The hashtag associated with the video, #fitchthehomeless, began trending immediately. To date, the video “Fitch the Homeless” has received more than 8 million views on YouTube.
The truth is that millennials are highly socially conscious and philanthropic. They believe in giving back: in 2013, 87% of millennials donated to at least one non-profit organization. In keeping with this charitable spirit, Generation Y looks for and forms strong bonds of loyalty to brands who put their social responsibility forward and give back to the community.
For more than 85% of millennials, purchasing decisions are correlated to a brand’s willingness and demonstrated actions in the area of social good. This is the reason why Red Bull energy drinks are so popular among millennials. The company not only markets to the demographic by appealing to their adventurous nature with extreme sports – they also tap into the charitable vein by fully funding Wings for Life, a non-profit spinal cord research foundation. This charity ties firmly into the company’s brand collateral, since their slogan is “Red Bull gives you wings.”
Millennials are a powerful and growing force in the worldwide market. If you develop a strong and very compelling brand strategy that authentically meets the needs of this millennial generation, your brand can tap into a highly effective, influential, and loyal customer base that will continue to elevate your brand platform, and your bottom line, for years to come.
So, what do you think?
• Have you developed your branding strategy to meet the needs of a millennial audience?
• How are you reaching the millennial demographic – or how can you start if you are considering rebranding?
• Is your social media presence active and engaging, or static and marketing-oriented? Does your strategy need a brand audit? How can you build more engagement through social media?
• Are you using video marketing in your social media mix?
• How can you extend co-creation opportunities to millennials?
• Does your brand get involved with philanthropy? Is your charitable work visible and highly transparent through your brand collateral?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!