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Social Media and UGC

How Brands Can Connect with Millennials

Also known as Generation Y, Millennials are a massive cohort of 80-90 million in the U.S. alone. By 2020, they will control roughly $400 billion in spending power. They are the children of idealistic Baby Boomers, who encouraged their children to be well-rounded, play well with others, and share feedback freely-- in an effort to teach them the skills to succeed in a congested crowd.

Today, Millennials have multiple interests, collaborate easily and are prone to sharing their opinions-- although this last quality is not always received well. As the subject of features with titles like “The Me Me Me Generation” and “Are Millennials ‘Deluded Narcissists?’” this much-maligned group is often criticized in the press for being self-involved. But theirs is a culture in which technology has raised the bar for standing out. For Millennials, making an impact in an ultra-transparent world where one’s “personal brand” is always on display requires shunning the status quo. Thus, logo-laden “brand tribes” of the past are now considered damaging in an environment where being associated en masse with a predefined style is a recipe for irrelevance. Consequently, Millennials do not look to brands to self-identify, but rather to use as platforms and inspiration for expressing their own style and taste.

How can companies adapt to these expectations and start marketing to Millennials effectively? Recent research results provide valuable clues. They point to a future that emphasizes understated luxury, individuality, quality and brand vision. Here’s what the Intelligence Group found in our Cassandra Report Spring/Summer 2013 research report:

  • 64% of Millennials prefer understated luxury to the conspicuous kind and savvy brands have taken note. This feeling of “logo fatigue” has been publicly acknowledged in recent months by top luxury conglomerates LVMH and Kering, who have released no-logo lines in response. Case in point, Louis Vuitton’s trademark LV monogram, long recognized as a status symbol worldwide, was nowhere to be seen on the catwalk of its Paris Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2013 show.
  • 81% show a preference for customized products. In Australia, when Coca-Cola replaced its logo with 150 personalized names in a campaign called “Share A Coke,” young adult consumption reportedly increased by 7%. The program earned over 18.3 million media impressions, leading to multiple roll-outs in international markets.
  • 52% report that “quality” engenders their loyalty to a brand, a factor that ranks higher in importance than customer service, rewards and even price. Burberry has responded to this quest for craftsmanship with “Smart Personalization,” a service that offers custom-made products with engraved nameplates and tech-enabled tags that once scanned, prompt a video revealing the story behind the item’s creation.
  • 63% say they’re more likely to be loyal to a brand that has a strong personality. That personality and vision should be displayed in products, not on products. Kate Spade’s rapidly expanding offshoot, Saturday, embodies this mentality by identifying itself with a trademark zigzag pattern in lieu of a traditional logo. It features a host of multi-function, design-it-yourself and color-it-in items that allow for unique imprints. It also represents an aspirational-but-attainable alternative to its pricier parent company, a welcome relief to a debt-saddled generation.

While Millennials still enjoy and value brands, they no longer need or want a logo to define them. In the era of the personal brand, only companies who bolster the bearer will earn consumer loyalty and successfully connect with Millennials.

The Intelligence Group (IG) is a youth-focused, research-based consumer insights company dedicated to identifying emerging movements in popular culture and translating them into relevant knowledge for companies, brands and institutions. 

For more than 15 years, IG has been publishing the quarterly Cassandra Report, the leading on-going cultural study of young consumers and cultural trendsetters.

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