Traditional Branding & Martech Combo for Success
For years, companies have heavily invested in harnessing the immense power that younger generations possess in the marketplace. The youth of today become the consumers of tomorrow, representing a crucial target when it comes to branding and marketing.
Take the infamous 1980’s Camel cigarettes’ Joe Camel campaign, for example, which was accused of targeting children by featuring a cartoon camel smoking their brand, or Pepsi’s wildly popular ads in the 1990s featuring young Hallie Kate Eisenberg as the “Pepsi Girl.”
Though not officially confirmed as targeting children, it is clear in both cases how the child-friendly ads hooked in customers from a young age for many years to come. While tapping into the younger demographic has always presented a challenge, the latest wave of young adults has proven to be a particularly difficult and therefore scary enigma for companies everywhere.
Dubbed “Millennials”, the generation born between 1980-2000 has proven to be an ever important yet frustrating target group for branding and marketing. According to Forbes, Millennials account for a staggering 80 million in the US alone, holding $200 billion in annual buying power. They influence the generations above them and set trends that could make or break an industry.
Unlike previous generations, though, Millennials are all but completely immune to traditional branding and marketing and exhibit completely different purchasing behaviors than their predecessors. According to a Goldman Sachs survey for a company who is selling drones for kids, Millennials face a harder economy than their parents, with lower employment opportunities, lower incomes, and higher student debt. Not only do Millennials have less to spend, but their priorities seem to focus on experiential purchases such as quality food and travel as well as products that provide a sense of exclusivity.
The picture of teens roving shopping centers in packs of mall rats couldn’t be any less representative of youth today. Millennials also harbor a more salient awareness when purchasing, looking to buy from companies that echo their own ethics and morals. Technological advances, too, have become essential for young consumers who use the internet and social media to view ratings and recommendations before deciding whether to buy or not.
With such a radical change in consumer patterns, companies are uncertain and a decade old debate over whether the age of “branding” is over or not, has been revived. While classic books such as “Information Rules” by Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian, and “Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information,” by Emanuel Rosen and Itamar Simonson, claim that the need to rely on trusted brands will become extinct, as access to information becomes easier and more widespread with the internet, the Harvard Business Review staunchly disagrees.
The traditional approach of branding does indeed seem to be impotent, however the essence of branding - to provide meaning and satisfy the emotional needs of customers - remains. Companies simply need to re-direct their branding and marketing strategies toward the Millennial mind, a more complicated objective than in previous generations who were less discriminating when it came to spending money.
Towards this goal, it’s imperative that brands reinvent themselves to offer Millennials the meaning and value they seek. As speaker Simon Sinek explains, companies need to become more than what they do and how they do it, instead championing the why behind their existence. Millennials are looking for companies that align with their own values, so brands must focus on their moral mission through every aspect of their company, promoting a shared vision with their customers.
And what better way to do this than through the same media that lead to the irrelevance of traditional branding? Social Media and the Internet can just as readily spread a company’s story and bedrock values as they do reviews and ratings. This new approach of Martech (marketing technology) provides a perfect way for companies to reach Millennials through a common medium. Through Martech, companies can promote transparency which, while potentially risky, can also be highly beneficial as a means through which to connect with Millennials (and everyone else.) Apple has mastered this art, promoting their worldview of “Think Different”, which trumpets a virtue dear to Millennials - uniqueness.
Marketing to existing customers, which is explained well in a recent blog by data analysts Optimove, is also a must when dealing with Millennials. By intimately getting to know who your customers are, and what they believe in, companies can increase loyalty by catering to the experience and image that they seek. Building a strong, loyal customer base also aids in creating a sense of community and spreading the company’s message to like-minded people.
Challenging as it is, companies will have to rethink their branding and marketing to adapt to Millennial inclinations, providing a meaningful story through actions and products, reshaping the landscape of consumerism in the process.
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