Marketers are tripping over themselves to reach Millennials. Advertisers spend five times as much on reaching Millennials as they do on all other generations combined.
The Millennial obsession on how to become relevant to the next generation has led to a lot of soul searching for marketers. Many old-school brands have been having a sort of brand identity crisis.
McDonalds represents this whiplash struggle to connect with Millennials. Last year they brought back a hipster version of the Hamburglar in the same month they introduced new kale offerings.
The return of the Hamburglar fell flat and was short-lived. It embodied for me the surface-level approach that many brands take with reaching Millennials, as if it’s a monolithic group that you can reach just by representing a stereotype persona.
It will be interesting to watch how brands continue to give themselves makeovers to appeal to Millennials. Many are taking the Denny’s approach of learning to “speak Millennial”.
Brands need to continually evolve to stay relevant. But I think marketers spend too much time chasing demographics and not enough time considering what the brand really stands for. It’s about much more than an image face lift.
Brand’s Millennial obsession also risks alienating all the other generations that have made up its base. In the US, baby boomers get 5% of marketing dollars, but provide 50% of national consumption. Much of how marketing talks nowadays completely ignores older demographics.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how brands can evolve to something new without alienating what they’ve always been.
12 CommentsJoin the Discussion
Tom McCool says
Why not just stick to universal brand values instead of chasing the latest fad, trend, or youth demographic? McDonald’s is perfect of example of attempting to put lipstick on a pig. Or should I say top-knot on a pig.
And on another note, isn’t a neck tattoo career suicide? Unless your career goal is to be a barista at Starbucks.
Jacqueline Drew says
Brands actually need to bother to do depth research with customers to understand what they feel and think. Only then can they take an authentic direction. Creative branding should only ever follow research and strategy. Great insight Tom! You’re more than an artist- always have such great insight!
Paul Copcutt says
Great point Tom. Far too many brands are so busy chasing the next generation, trying to be hip on Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope and making older generations feel ignored or stupid if they are not embracing the latest social network.
Jennifer S Nelson says
I would build on what you already suggested, Tom: marketers spend too much time chasing demographics and not enough time considering what the brand really stands for (by adding) and how what their brand IS, DOES and STANDS FOR might be authentically relevant and compelling to specific groups of users and potential users.
Christopher Brace says
Understanding Millennials’ non-conscious emotional truths is what’s required for making a brand relevant to this generation. We have a client who wants to make an 85-year-old brand relevant to Millennials while not alienating the brand’s older consumer base. We just completed qualitative research where we identified the emotional truths shared by both Millennials and the older consumer base and now have four very strong positioning options. Focusing on this deeper emotional understanding supersedes demographics and behaviors.
Christopher, I think you hit the nail on the head. Most brands won’t go through that kind of work – its harder to identify common emotional truths than it is to slap some hip new thing together.
What they forget is that what people will actually buy is…the brand that taps into the common bonds between generations.
Remedia Sheryl Fernandes says
Smart! I agree… what makes Millenials and Baby Boomers and whatnots different are the motivators for that generation.
But Values…those are universal. Each Generation manifests it differently but inherently it’s what all humanity want- love, truth and goodwill (that’s me being schamltzy :-))
The following article articulates very well why brand managers should pause and think before rushing after “Millennial targeting” especially if their brand is a mass market brand with broad penetration…
The trouble with large established organizations is that they are usually headed by people who have been in the business since the early days of our solar system. By the time millennials who join them will have worked their way up to some decision making power there will be another generation which everybody will want to target. What these organizations need is flat structure where you can come and have your voice heard right away and not after 15 years. A lively discussion where all generations who work for the company get to share their way of thinking so they can together formulate a relevant message.
Allen Roberts says
True words Tom.
I suggest all you short term trend following so called marketers out there have a quick look at who is actually spending the money.
While it differs a bit between categories, old farts like me, baby boomers retiring or close to it are outspending the cash strapped millennials by a mile.
And there are a lot of us, for a while anyway.
Alyssa Carter says
I think brands need to consider who their target audience is; brands don’t necessarily need to be everything to everyone. Millennials care about community and social responsibility. Showcase how your brand is speaking to things Millennials care about (ie, do some real research on your audience) and find ways that these messages can cascade across different audiences.
Ori Pomerantz says
The reason brands aren’t spending much courting Boomers is they are relatively old and set in their ways. They’ll switch to new ways of doing things is there is a big advantage, but advertising is mostly concerned with cases where there isn’t much difference one way or the other.
Having said that, attempting to be cool and relevant is the best way to appear like you’re trying too hard and are certainly irrelevant. If you want to appeal to Millennials, don’t try to fake it. They grew up with the Internet, and their ability to detect fakes is very well developed.