(Continued from Part I)
Age-wise, Millennials are currently somewhere in the 20-37 year old range. They are a large generation, unlike Generation X, whose Baby Boomer parents were the first to have widespread access to birth control. Therefore, in less than ten years, Millennials should make up the majority of the workforce, crowding out the smaller Generation X and retiring Baby Boomers. In the short term Millennial spending is predicted to reach $2.5 trillion by next year, which is not surprising given that they are at a stage of their lives where many have disposable income but have yet to start families.
How might a brand go from just a “transaction” to a form a “self-expression” amongst a group of consumers with Millennial behaviors? To succeed with Millennials, brands must think long and hard about their brand identity – just as the typical Millennial lovingly thinks about their own identity. The expectations for brands have risen. This is a generation that has grown up in an era where Internet users are bombarded with marketing messages on a daily basis. Therefore, they are incredibly adept at tuning out the noise. This is bad news for brands because it is harder to get noticed by Millennials than any other targeted generational audience. To break through the clutter, brands must have meaning, must stand for something, must add value, must present a unique point-of-view. Why? Because when Millennials buy a product, they expect it to express some part of their own brand persona that they present to the world (and also hide behind).
Millennials place value on a company’s image, innovativeness, philanthropy, tribalism and design prowess. They expect their favorite coffee shop to jive with their own brand image. They expect their favorite cheese brand to innovate as much as the automobile manufacturer who remodeled the sport sedan they drive. They expect the look of their cereal box to be as slickly designed as their laptop computer. They expect the cola company – with which they associate themselves – to have a do-the-right-thing attitude because they consider that they, too, have a do-the-right-thing attitude.
Have you ever secretly judged (or envied) the person in front of you in the grocery store checkout line for having a myriad of truly unhealthy (but delicious) choices in their cart? Every purchase that we make – Millennial or not – says something about who we are and what we value. Millennials expect brands to respond instantly and reward their loyalty. They want to be understood and expect to feel like they are a part of a larger brand community that shares their value system. Millennials see through the nonsense and prefer to interact with brands that talk to them with a sense of humor and in a straightforward manner, even though they might blatantly lie to avoid embarrassment themselves. But we kid the Millennials…with love.