The Millennial Generation, or "Millennials," is the largest generation in American history, according to the Boston Consulting Group's "The Millennial Consumer." At nearly 80 million strong, Millennials comprise one-quarter of the population in the U.S. and influence over $170 billion in spending power annually; a figure that will increase as Millennials reach their peak earning and spending years. Moreover, Millennials are trendsetters and the brands, products, and services they like are indicative of future trends for the population as a whole.
Listen up, brand marketers. The Millennial market cannot be ignored; even if they're not your original target. Whether directly or indirectly, they will influence the future of your business.
The reality is that all brands have to evolve to survive. While every brand marketer plans to evolve his or her brand and target market in unison, this is not always a reality. So how can an iconic or seemingly old-fashioned brand reinvent itself to become relevant with a younger Millennial audience?
In this article, we'll examine the top three tricks for old-fashioned brands looking to increase appeal and purchase intent among Millennials as well as examples of brands that have gotten it right (and others that have not been quite as fortunate).
Be emotionally satisfying
Reinventing an old-fashioned brand for the Millennial market requires understanding both the rational and emotional need states that the product or service satisfies as well as how those need states evolve over time. While rational needs rarely change, consumers' emotional needs do evolve to take on new meaning. As such, old-fashioned brands need to put in the effort to understand current consumers' emotional needs (i.e. how they want to feel) and then help them feel that way every day.
FOMO, or the "fear of missing out," has always affected young people; it's rooted in human anxiety about not being included in the group. However, the rise of smartphone technology and social media sites like Facebook have heightened Millennials' fear by providing them constant access to updates on what their network of peers is doing, who they are with, and, ultimately, what they are missing out on. Think of the teenager who is constantly using their iPod to check their Facebook news feed or the college student who sleeps with their mobile phone under their pillow…just in case. There's no doubt that Millennials today are in "a FOMO state of mind, and it isn't pretty," as JWT Intelligence reports.
Seeing it in action
Heineken is a great example of an older brand that has invested the time and energy to understand the emotional needs of its target audience, tapping into FOMO for its 2011 global marketing campaign. The "Sunrise" campaign includes an 85-second video of a man drinking responsibly at a Heineken-sponsored party. As a result, he is able to party until morning, eventually leaving to enjoy the sunrise with an attractive woman he's met at the club (celebrity DJ Audrey Napoleon).
A Twitter component encourages Millennial participation by inviting other all-night party animals to "Tweet your sunrise and celebrate with the world." The message from the Heineken brand is smart and simple: A few beers lead to a good time, but overindulging increases your risk of having to leave the festivities…and missing out on an epic occurrence.
Not all brands are quite as successful as Heineken at interpreting consumers' emotional need states. In 2011, the Snapple Group launched Dr. Pepper Ten, a new diet soda targeted at male Millennials. The company chose the tagline, "It's not for women," after research found that "men shy away from diet drinks that aren't perceived as 'manly' enough," as stated in USA Today.
The commercial spots featured aggressive, action-movie like men racing through the jungle battling snakes, shooting lasers, and drinking cans of the new diet beverage. The campaign was meant to poke fun at stereotypical gender norms through the use of comedy. Only male Millennials did not feel a need to be distanced from everything containing the word "diet;" they were found to be quite comfortable with more fluid definitions of gender and sexuality. If Snapple had only invested the time and energy to understand the nuances of gender definition, this snafu could have been avoided.
Things to keep in mind
In order to create an emotional connection between an old-fashioned brand and the Millennial cohort, brands need to understand exactly how Millennials want to feel in the first place. What are their dreams and, equally as important, what keeps them up at night? Millennials' heartstrings are the key to success for old-fashioned brands looking to reinvent themselves.
Share your brand's heritage story
To borrow from Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry analyst at The NPD Group, "it's very easy to allow an iconic brand to remain true to its heritage and at the same time obsolete itself." Brand heritage, in and of itself, is not enough to make an iconic or old-fashioned brand successful in the long-term. After all, do you like a brand because it's old or because you trust that brand to deliver on its promise?
Brand heritage can be an effective storytelling device for old-fashioned brands looking to become relevant with Millennial consumers, according to the "Brand Heritage Guide." The fact that a brand has a heritage story to share provides reason to believe in the authenticity of the brand and the quality of the products and/or services it sells. After all, how could the brand have survived if that was not the case? Amidst an environment of economic uncertainty, Millennials want "to trust what they are spending their money on and enjoy the comfort and validation [that the brand's story of] heritage provides."
Seeing it in action
Burberry has done a great job utilizing its heritage as storytelling device in order to build trust with Millennial consumers. In 2009, the 157-year-old brand launched "Art of the Trench," a photo-sharing website dedicated to images (past and present) of people wearing the brand's signature trench coat.
The site included images from professional fashion photographers as well as images from fashion blogger, Scott Schuman, also known as "The Sartorialist." In addition, Burberry invited consumers to submit their own photos and select their favorite photos posted by others. This digital activation by Burberry provided Millennials with a reason to believe its products were worth the extra cost, even during an economic recession when money was tight. The brand was clearly experienced when it came to designing and making quality trench coats that last.
Not all heritage brands share their story in as straight-forward a manner as Burberry. Microsoft's recent advertisement for Internet Explorer, "Child of the 90s," is an example of a heritage brand that relies on nostalgia as storytelling device to earn Millennials' trust.
So why does showcasing popular products from the 1990s such as Pogs and the Oregon Trail computer game work? The answer is that the advertisement reminds Millennials of memories from their childhood; a time in the past when life was much simpler and much more manageable. Instead of fretting about getting a job or making a rent payment, Millennials could enjoy playing with friends. The message of the advertisement is simple and effective; both Millennials and Internet Explorer are children of the 1990s and, as such, they should instill trust in one another.
Things to keep in mind
Overall, heritage, in and of itself, is not enough to make an old-fashioned brand relevant; it's only when heritage and/or nostalgia are used as an authentic storytelling device that they have the power to make a brand current.
Millennials are smart when it comes to marketing and advertising. They know that they are an attractive target for brands and have learned how to navigate the barrage of messages flying at them. If they aren't entertaining or emotionally-relevant, they ignore them. Thus, for old-fashioned brands reliant on the Millennial market for future growth, adaptation of the brand and marketing approach is crucial. This generation's attitudes and behaviors are much different than those of generations past.
A study of 4,000 Millennials by Edelman Berman confirms that 80 percent of Millennials like to be entertained by advertising -- that is, as long as the brand is current and the offering is appealing or relevant. There is no use creating an entertaining advertisement for an old and stodgy brand that is averse to change.
Seeing it in action
Old Spice is the best known (and most talked about) example of an old-fashioned brand that has effectively reinvented itself for a younger audience…and with good reason. Repositioning longevity as a core strength (as opposed to a weakness) gave the brand more freedom to be creative in its advertising tactics and messaging. Whereas the brand's previous advertising featured a whistling sailor and was a bit stale, its new ads feature a confident, comedic brand character known as the "Old Spice Man."
The shift in positioning and development of entertaining content helped the brand become the leading deodorant and antiperspirant brand for men in the U.S.
Intel's "The Museum of Me" is another great example of entertaining online content on behalf of a brand looking to connect people through their digital lives.
The site allows users to create a virtual hall of memories by visualizing Facebook elements such as friends, photos, and "likes." Instead of pushing messaging about its new core processor onto uninterested persons, Intel created a brand experience that demonstrated the product's benefit while providing entertainment to those who gave the site a try. "The Museum of Me" was a huge success, resulting in more than 540,000 "likes," 790,000 shares, and 130,000 impressions on Facebook.
Things to keep in mind
Creating entertaining advertisements and online content is not always enough, although it's a good start. In order for old-fashioned brands to get noticed, they have to create compelling content and think about the context in which that content is being consumed.
Putting it all together
All brands have to evolve to survive and, for many, the Millennial market promises the greatest opportunity for future growth. Here's a synopsis of the top three ways to become relevant with an audience that will undoubtedly impact your business:
- Provoke their innermost emotions: Find out how Millennials want to feel and make them feel that way every day.
- Don't be afraid of being "old": Being "old," and having a heritage, means that you're more experienced than other brands. As such, consumers are more likely to trust you. Embrace your age. Share it. Be proud of it.
- Stop talking, start listening, and get inspired: In order to be appealing and relevant to a younger target market, you need to spend time listening to their needs and doing your best to provide solutions. In need of entertaining content? No problem.
By focusing on these three ways of reinventing your brand for a Millennial audience, you will be setting yourself up for long-term success. After all, it's makeover or move over. No exceptions.
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"Beautiful woman with many shopping bags" image via Shutterstock.