Sure-fire strategies for marketing to Millennials
Friday, February 07, 2014
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Bridget Brennan
While the rest of us
have been busy aging, it turns out Millennials have, too.
Take a look at that
young mother pushing her stroller into Starbucks. I know you’ve seen
her. Chances are she’s a Millennial, a member of the generation born
between 1980 and 2000. (Exact definitions vary, but the term Millennial typically refers to the generation that has grown up with
Millennial women are already the newest generation of
mothers, with the eldest women in this age group now 33 years old. The early
30s are also an age when many women hit their professional stride. This
combination of factors means Millennial women are a prime target audience for
everything from cars to furniture to financial services. So what’s the
best way to reach them?
Related: "What Spanx teaches us about innovation"
Based on our research at Female Factor, here are three strategies for marketing
to this influential group:
1. Inspire her. This generation believes it can change the world and in many ways it
already has. (Exhibit A: Facebook.) When it comes
to social issues, Millennials are, generally speaking, tolerant, optimistic and
looking to be inspired. They’re thinking big. Are you? How can you align your
product or brand with a bigger idea? For a great example of a brand that’s done
it, go out to a busy street and try to count how many Millennial women walk
past you in a pair of TOMS shoes.
TOMS has created
the ne plus ultra of big, inspirational business ideas. The
company donates one pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair purchased by
a customer and has a similar program for its eyewear line. Late last year, TOMS
unveiled an e-commerce platform on its website that features goods from 30
socially conscious, mission-driven entrepreneurs. TOMS is a brand beloved by
Millennials because it speaks to one of their core values: making a difference
in the world.
Now look over at the
kitchen sink. The housecleaning brand Method is another example of how an
inspirational idea can rock an industry. Method produces eco-friendly,
high design household cleaning products that people display on their counters
like artwork. Check out the brand’s "People Against Dirty” campaign and its peppy "Clean Happy” brand anthem videos and notice how
Method elevates the mundane act of housecleaning into the far more inspiring
idea of "joining us in the good fight to make our planet — and homes — a
When I interviewed
Method co-founder Eric Ryan for my book Why She Buys, he told me, "We think of our brand as a movement.” Do
you? Communicating what you stand for is a powerful way to
reach Millennial women.
2. Think visually. Good design has
become an expectation for Millennials. We already know they’re drawn to
sharing pictures of the things they buy, the things they want to buy and the
things they find interesting or inspiring. (Exhibit B: Pinterest.) Good design is now a
differentiator in every category and price point. You can see it in the
smallest of products — like egg-shaped lip balms from eos and fashion-forward trash
cans from Umbra — all the way up to the largest, like entire
kitchens from Ikea.
Design has become a
priority for businesses far outside the traditional design centers of fashion
and apparel. Feel a cold coming on? Consider what brands like Kleenex and Puffs have done with innovative tissue box
designs and shapes. What was once viewed as a quasi-medicinal product on
grandma’s nightstand is now a home décor accessory. Thirsty? Just last
year, PepsiCo hired its first ever chief design officer, who has led a redesign of the Pepsi brand’s
single-serve bottles. Service businesses aren’t off the hook. Whether it’s
your website, your retail location, your call center experience or your app,
Millennials expect customer interfaces to be intuitive and well designed.
Call it the Apple effect (or something else), the bottom
line is that design can no longer be viewed as separate and distinct from the
marketing function. They are joined at the hip. Which begs the question: How
can you better incorporate the role of design within your own brand?
3. Build age "elasticity." Millennial women are the burgeoning epicenter of brand influence. They
tend to remain close to their parents even after they leave the house, often
sharing brand preferences in everything from apparel to electronics and
food. This is a marked difference from previous generations, who typically
didn’t view using the same brands as their parents as "cool.”
Once Millennial women
grow up, those who have children often involve them in their favorite adult
brands. Just think about that young mother pushing her stroller into Starbucks.
The company has wisely broadened its product assortment to cater to her kids. Standing
in line, she is met with a variety of kid-friendly products, from apple juice
to chocolate milk and fruit slices. She is able to share a favorite brand
experience with her child.
All of this means
there may be an opportunity for you to expand up or down the age spectrum by
enabling your customers to share the brand experience with the people they’re
closest to, as Starbucks has done. Naturally, this depends on the nature of
what you’re selling, but examples are all around us. Home Depot may not be the first place that springs
to mind when you say "children,” and yet an astonishing 300,000 kids
participate in the company’s Kids Workshops every month, alongside
a parent or caregiver who presumably will not leave the store empty handed.
Energy bar maker Clif Bar & Company has crossed the age divide by offering Z
Bars for kids. Fashion examples are legion: It’s not uncommon to see entire
families sporting Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers.
also works in the other direction: Kraft offers "adult” versions of kids’
favorites like Lunchables, capitalizing on loyalty and nostalgia. Does
your brand or product have an opportunity to expand up or down the age
spectrum? With the Millennial woman as your primary influencer, you just might
be able to do both.
Bridget Brennan is the author of Why She
Buys and founder of Female Factor,
which offers strategies for marketing and selling to women. Follow Bridget at
twitter.com/bridgetbrennan or email her directly at email@example.com.
This article first appeared on Forbes.com.
Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the authors and
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