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Marketing Brand Purpose Brand Strategy

The way you make me feel: how ads from UK's most connected brands transcend generations

By Florence Staples | Research executive



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October 31, 2022 | 8 min read

Opinium's Florence Staples and Robyn McKane look into research on the UK's most connected brands and how to strike a generational balance.

Bowl of bran flakes

Is emotive, nostalgic advertising the best way to pull on heart strings across generations? / Nyana Stoica via Unsplash

Opinium’s 2022 Most Connected Brands research, an index that identifies the brands which are indispensable to consumers’ daily lives, has highlighted some interesting generational differences among brands.

The generational gap has always been a conundrum for brands, who can often find that while one line of communication might land with one age group, it struggles to land with another.

Advertising solely to younger generations risks alienating a potentially lucrative audience, while failing to communicate with them could put a brand’s legacy at risk in the long term. Striking the balance is difficult, but it’s possible. Using Opinium’s Advantage advertising optimization tool, we look at how brands are navigating this tricky task.

The joke’s on you(th)

Campaigns that amuse or inspire tend to land better with younger audiences, with recent ads from McDonald’s, Walkers and Samsung resonating more with those aged 18-34.

McDonald’s ranks in the top 15 Most Connected Brands among younger consumers. Their advert ‘Laughter’ shows people united through the simplicity of laughter and a McDonald’s meal. This is particularly effective among younger viewers who were far more likely to recognize the advert was for McDonald’s and felt like it was relevant to them, leading to a strong emotional connection via associations of happiness and amusement.

Similarly, Walkers, which ranks in the top 15 Most Connected Brands among both younger and older age groups, has used humor to appeal to younger audiences in their ‘Love Crisps’ campaign from the perspective of the crisp packet. 18-34s have a stronger emotional connection and are more engaged with the ad, showing strong feelings of happiness and comfort due to the feel-good factor and diversity shown.

Generation inspiration

Humor isn’t the only way to engage with 18-34s, particularly when we consider sector. Just look at Samsung’s ‘Museum of Laptops’; inspiration is a key factor for younger audiences. The advert resonates by looking back at old laptop capabilities, shining a light on Samsung’s latest innovations.

This is perhaps a strategic move. Apple’s ‘Cook’ advert, showcasing the durability of the iPhone, does not resonate as well with those aged 18–34 compared to the Samsung ad. Messaging around innovation is less salient in this ad and could explain why 18-34s are less positive and feel less inspired. It appears that younger audiences connect more with creative that inspires them when it comes to tech brands.

Context is crucial

For older audiences, humor's context is critical. Kellogg’s ranks in the top 15 Most Connected Brands among 55+ year-olds. Its campaign ‘We Do Breakfast’, showing different people enjoying Kellogg’s cereal in a variety of amusing and relatable situations, resonates with older audiences. Over 55s are more likely to enjoy the advert and experience feelings of happiness, amusement, and comfort linked to nostalgic memories.

Apple’s ‘Cook’ ad also lands better with older audiences. The ad is amusing to older audiences and generates feelings of surprise, related to the change in style from typical Apple ads. This is very different from Apple’s usual sleek and aspirational style which appears to work for younger audiences who want to feel inspired by innovations; however, bringing a reality check to tech appears to connect more with older audiences.

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Overcome divides in humankind

The impossible is possible. Cadbury’s ranks in the top 15 Most Connected Brands among both younger and older age groups and its emotive ‘Small Acts of Kindness’ ad manages to resonate with both generations. The ad shows a young boy attempting to cheer up an upset woman on the bus by sharing his Dairy Milk. Across all ages, the ad is well-liked and evokes feelings of comfort, hope, happiness, and pride. The sweet sentiment and kindness exhibited are key drivers.

This creative style is a real shift from Cadbury’s previous ‘wacky’ creative. It’s a strategic move to ensure they are resonating better with consumers and tapping into something we can all relate to: the warm feeling of helping others and restoring faith in humanity.

Appealing to consumers across generations has never been easy and some brands have navigated the journey better than others. In a saturated media environment, it's even more important for brands to continue to stay true to their brand ethos. Communications should focus on content that is coherent, but also tailored to speak universal truths that transcend generations.

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