Branding for Millennials
Here’s the catch: branding for millennials isn’t a one-size fits all strategy.
But that doesn’t mean businesses won’t try. According to a 2014 Accenture study, the term “millennial” encompasses roughly 80 million people in the U.S. whose current annual spending of approximately $600 billion is expected to grow to $1.4 trillion by 2020 and will represent 30% of total retail sales. That’s a massive market.
And it’s less than 4 years away.
So branding for millennials is worth …. something, isn’t it?
But how do we reach this Mythic Millennial Consumer Who Will Buy Everything, and how do we do it well? The 18 year-old college freshman is vastly different than the 36 year-old, born in 1980, who still remembers life before iTunes. Are there any similarities that can guide a business as it targets this diverse, tech savvy audience?
Not all millennials are the same.
There is no singular, ideal millennial consumer against which all others can be compared. As this article notes, businesses must understand the different stages of a millennial’s life and which stage is the audience for a specific brand. Some successes in this effort include Chipotle, Netflix, and Coca-Cola because of how they created an interaction with consumers, whether through shareable content or personalized products (like putting 200 of the most popular names on cans of Coke). Among the 14 takeaways identified in that source include one that emphasizes the diversity of this market group: flexibility.
Millennials evolve, so change with them.
Is this strategy any different than targeting Baby Boomers? Not really, and that’s the question one writer posed, who doesn’t identify with the term “millennial” because of the inherent diversity reflected in it: some are still in college; some are in their first professional job; others have bought a house, had kids, and started families.
However, millennials do require different approaches than branding for Baby Boomers.
For example, top brands among millennials tend to be new to the market. Of course, given the early stage of careers for millennials compared to Boomers, this may not be earth shattering. Stability and consistency in a brand are more important to Baby Boomers as they enter into retirement and a conservative phase of spending.
They are individuals, and they own it.
Millennials are more accurately understood as a group of loosely-related audiences rather than one big group. Stop targeting them according to broad sweeping categories. Instead, focus on what connects with them on an emotional level: the organic gardener, the daredevil mountain biker, or the new dad to an adopted daughter.
In other words, know your audience. With millennials, know your audiences.
That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? If you know who, as a millennial, you want to target, then make your brand deliver on a promise to fulfill their specific needs. In other words, you’re not only accountable, but also relevant to that consumer. Relevancy creates an authentic story.
As another millennial writes, he ignores ads because he doesn’t trust them. Instead of spin, he wants to be engaged with authenticity through communication, transparency, relevancy, and care about providing something of value – not just making profit.
They know branding better than anyone.
The next generation of consumers, as a whole, is more savvy than their parents, possibly due to the prevalence of being inundated with commercials and branding and billboards more than any other group in the history of the world. They are over saturated. This savvy has required a shift in communication from “blitz” to “friendship.”
Seriously, friendship? Yes. It isn’t the kind of friend you call to catch a movie, but this “friend zone” stems from consumer interaction and experiences that are authentic, real and raw.
So what does this mean?
- Stop trying to capture all millennials with one brand story.
- Understand how and where your brand—or brands—fits within the various audiences that constitute the millennial generation.
- Understand how those individual audiences share with each other through social media: are image-focused consumers more likely to share through tumblr, Snapchat, or Instagram?
- Engage with those audiences through relevant and specific experiences that also show you aren’t simply in it for a quick profit.
- Be transparent and clear so that they know your product is worth the cost.
Ultimately, branding for millennials still requires relevancy, accountability, and authenticity. There isn’t a single gimmick in reaching the ideal millennial consumer: they don’t exist. Branding for millennials simply requires awareness of the shift in perceptions and specific needs of different aspects of the new consumer generation.
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