From launching new, experiential products to producing immersive communications, brands and their agencies are increasingly tuning into the Millennial Generation – the under 35-year-olds who count for one in every four British adults.
This digital native population is now a consumer force to be reckoned with – one that has largely grown of age in a world dominated by the rapid rise of technology, globalization and macro issues such as war, global warming and worldwide recession.
Earlier this year Bauer Media launched Bauer Knowledge: The Millennials Chapter, a landmark piece of research aiming to get under the skin of Britain’s 15.8 million 16 to 34-year-olds to discover their motivations and fears.
The Drum, in association with Bauer Media, has been discussing the findings with agencies to understand how they and the brands they represent are meeting the challenge of engaging with this complex, fascinating new audience.
Says Jason Cobbold, managing director of Redscout London, a strategy and innovation agency: “It’s such a broad group, but the term ‘millennial’ and what it stands for is so symbolic. It is how we naturally think about audiences, tending to look for meaningful historic moments.”
The first key finding of the Bauer research was that experience “unique, fleeting and personal”, is the millennials’ ultimate bespoke status symbol. Something agency bosses readily concur with.
Matt Boffey, founder of innovation consultancy London Strategy Unit, says: “The growing importance of experiences is true across the board, irrespective of age. But millennials could be said to be the first true digital natives and what technology has allowed them to do is commoditize those experiences. The ability to document, upload and share (aka ‘showing off’) further enhances the value of experiences.
“Things get worse over time while experiences get better. The brain finds it easier to recall good times, so great experiences become self-reinforcing.”
How, though, asks Boffey, should brands really start to “sweat” the value of experiences? He urges marketers to find ways of creating networks and capturing the data around experiences - these groups can then be marketed to on a low cost basis.
Cobbold says that savvy marketers are starting to design ‘experience’ into products today. He points to Miller Coors in the States, which has launched a beer aimed at millennials called Miller Fortune. It aims to encapsulate the spirit and adventure of the late-night occasion and has ‘gamified’ its bottle top into a ‘heads or tails’ counter.
He cautions against trying to create inorganic ‘experiences’ but instead advises brands to facilitate and enhance what consumers are already doing or vying for. “Don’t try to manufacture experience for them,” he warns.
Experience was at the heart of AnalogFolk’s solution last year to make rum brand Malibu relevant to its target of young millennials. The agency says it was clear that Malibu needed to start approaching summer just as its target audience did, eschewing the usual beach and palm tree communication clichés, in favour of helping young drinkers get the most out of the season.
It built on the documentation of memorable summer experiences its target audience was already sharing on social media with the ‘Best Summer Ever’ campaign. At its heart was a bespoke YouTube hub fed by user-generated content, featuring a challenge to five strangers to share a 40-day trip round Europe and the States, ticking off ‘summer bucket list’ activities. Importantly, the YouTube community directly influenced the content.
AnalogFolk head of strategy Lise Pinnell says: “Sharing, co-creation and direct dialogue with brands is important for millennials.”
And though many brands are now communicating through social media she believes there is an impetus for advertisers and agencies to step up their game.
“When consumers co-create it’s really important for us to take action and improve our products, our customer service, our brand promise as a whole. We need to put them at the heart of our feedback loops – and that’s when they’ll know we care.”
Bauer Knowledge: The Millennial Chapter is funded by Bauer Media but all content is editorially independent, except pieces labelled "brought to you by". Find out more here