Marketing at millennials won’t save your tired brand

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Not all millennials are impressed by the same marketing

All of us in marketing understand the critical importance of recruiting new customers – even the best of brands is a leaky funnel, and the biggest brands are built on the backs of legions of light buyers.

But we in marketing also have a certain fixation on youth. Millennials (put roughly, those born between 1980 and 2000) are the prime suspect at the minute because from where we sit in London, it seems like they’re reaching their prime consumption years.

They value experiences over things. They want authentic connections to brands. They want to be marketed to via a social influencer instead of a traditional ad (ha! they want to be marketed to – insert laugh/cry emoji here).

‘Millennial Marketing’ returns 8.8m results on Google. With that many collective hours of human endeavour spent on putting together this wisdom, you would assume that if you could just find the one thing that unites this age bracket – across nations, cultures, religions, socio-economic realities, etc – then you could crack the code to appealing to a whole new body of consumers.

But anyone who’s tried will know that that’s not possible.

No, not all 18–34-year-olds have the same attitudes to technology, politics, mobile phones, or breakfast cereal. You can barely find three 18-34-year-olds who agree completely on those things.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day there are no millennials, just like there are no Gen-Xers, Xennials, Gen Z, or Y or whatever. There are just people, who happen to want or need consumer products for various reasons, and use brands as a means of navigating a sea of ever-increasingly more difficult choices.

At Impero, we understand that the brands who are winning online all have one thing in common, and it isn’t their laser-focused ability to win over millennials to their brand causes.

The brands that are winning online – the likes of Nike, Beats, Apple, Spotify, Old Spice – do so by being consumer-centric in what they do. Put another way, they prioritise the needs of their consumers ahead of their own.

A brand wants to tell consumers about their heritage, latest promotion, craft process and USP. Consumers just want to know how they can save money, feel empowered or attractive or run faster.

Adopting a consumer-centric mindset means switching your approach from ‘I am dying to tell you our brand story’ or ‘I really want my consumer to…’ to a place where you think ‘I am dying to offer you value, for time’ and ‘my consumers really want to…’

Fame point

At Impero, we have a tried and tested method for building consumer-centric brands – and it starts with something we call a fame point.

Online or offline, all brands need to be famous for something. By this, we mean people need to be able to instantly and effortlessly peg what your brand means, what it’s for, and what role that plays in their lives. This is especially true for tired brands, as often their problems can be boiled down to one of two things:

  1. They’re no longer famous
  2. They’re famous for something nobody cares about

Our fame point model can help each and every brand find that one thing that they are, or can be, famous for.

Put simply, brands with fame sell more stuff, because they are the safer and easier choice to make. Humans love choice, but hate decisions – so finding ‘the one you know’ on the shelf makes your decision easier when it matters most.

Here’s how we use the fame point to build consumer-centric brands that attract real people in the real world…

First comes creating fame.

Step one: identify a real consumer need

We’re a consumer-centric agency, so we always start our research with the consumer. We combine quant and qual data sources, primary interviews and influence mapping to find a real insight into the target audience – an unmet desire, a problem to be solved, a cultural pain point.

Step two: determine a credible brand role

Only once we’ve identified that unmet need do we look internally at the brand and ask ‘right – now, how can we help?’

We analyse the category and look for norms to break – a blue ocean to occupy until we can credibly identify a role for our brand in helping to solve that problem.

But it has to come from an authentic place for our brand in our category. As we’ve seen recently, Pepsi has no right to get involved with socio-economic injustice perceived by large swathes of our collective societies. See also, KFC and ‘awesome chicken.’

Step three: putting it all together

Once we have our unmet consumer need, and a way our brand can credibly help to solve it, we can point to the correct way forward.

We understand the consumer and the reality of their experiences. We understand ourselves, the category we play in, and how we can be distinct by breaking the norms to offer real, distinctive value.

Then it becomes all about the Glory.

Glory comes from glorious, engaging, brilliant executions that authentically remind your consumers why your fame point isn’t just talk – it’s your authentic and honest reason to exist.

Because none of this will work if we just talk the talk, and don’t walk the walk.

We need every brand touch point to be working hard – through continuous glorious, executions – to land that fame point over, and over, and over again.

Longevity and repetition are two of the hardest to use tools in a marketer's toolbox, but also the most effective.

Nike has used ‘Just do it’ since 1988. M&M's has been using ‘melts in your mouth, not in your hands’ since 1954. Do young people love Nike and M&M's? Surely a lot of them do. But these brands are famous to everyone, and that is what we should all be striving for.

Dan Deeks-Osburn is strategy director at creative agency Impero.

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