Millennial Brand Loyalty - Fanaticism Week


By Emma Nolan

Photo courtesy of The Knife Fight.

Millennials, Gen Y, 18 to 34 year olds; there are a lot of us, roughly 77 million according to Forbes magazine and we, as such a large demographic, represent the largest consumer generation in history.

According to Erin Mulligan Nelson, CMO of Bazaarvoice “The Millennial generation is larger than the Baby Boomer generation and three times the size of Generation X.”

With such a large demographic to cater to, companies have their work cut out when attempting to inspire brand loyalty in what is known to be a somewhat fickle generation. Many in advertising have come to discover that Gen Y is always in search of the new whilst striving to maintain a level of authenticity in lifestyle choices and the choices made as consumers.

We all have our brands that we love and continue to go back to because we’re satisfied with the product. Whether you love your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, your Diet Coke or Pepsi Max, brand loyalty from consumers depends on a variety of factors. You may love a certain brand of tea or coffee because it’s what your parents always bought, maybe you were introduced to something through a friend, or perhaps you were enticed by the product’s advertising and associated ethos and image.

Greg Petro, contributor at Forbes states, “Millennial consumer behavior has been shaped by the world in which they have come of age, and their importance cannot be underestimated.”

Millennials, as a group are expected to have the largest spending power of the generations but that has not proven entirely true in these recessionary times as the millennial unemployment rate in January 2013 increased to 13.1%.

This unfortunate fact has led to the price of a product being one of its key selling points. The beer, PBR, Pabst Blue Ribbon, is commonly regarded as a “hipster” beer, this is due to the clever marketing behind the brand’s fan base of young, cash strapped students. By associating the brand with this trendy, hipster, alternative lifestyle, Pabst is driving up the price and sales of cheap beer.

The Huffington Post reports, “a recent study by Restaurant Sciences found that your everyday, low-cost beers like Budweiser, Miller Light and Coors Light are getting pricier, a trend the firm attributes to the rise in popularity of Pabst Blue Ribbon — a favorite among your bearded, flannel shirt-wearing friends.”

When asked how much of a role does the price of a product play when attempting to inspire brand loyalty in millennials, Christina Stanfield, Senior Director of Strategy for Interbrand New York tells BTR “It’s all relative to the usage context.”

“Millenials are experts in assessing personal utility value,” Stanfield continues. “They love to find deals, but it’s only a deal if it’s the chance to pay a bit less for something they already wanted. Price competition is never going to be a winning loyalty strategy with this group.”

So as with Pabst Blue Ribbon, a “cheap and cheerful” brand can still win Gen Y-ers over and “find a terrifically loyal segment if they hit on the right overall value proposition.”

It is also no surprise that us millennials love our Apple products. The company has positioned itself in such a way that it creates an experience for the customer, each new product is an event and Apple celebrates the age of technology and connectedness in which we have grown up and thrived in. This element of instant access to any information, images and music is what will make companies like Google and Apple iconic to our generation.

As XYZ tells us, “Apple focuses on the experience the product provides the user. They get your attention and make it memorable without showing their products. The campaigns are bold and simple with a feeling of authenticity. The trend continues with the latest iPhone commercials. And Gen Y will continue to buy Apple products.”

Another important aspect of enticing millennial consumers is customization and the sheer importance of choice, particularly regarding food. Burger King’s “Have it Your Way” campaign has proven popular amongst this generation, as has Subway and Chipotle, while McDonald’s – which is number one overall – fails to rank even in the top 10 favorites when it comes to fast food preferences.

“Millennials know more about the brands they buy and where they come from than other generations,” claims Stanfield. “Millennials are more likely to modify, hack, recombine and repurpose brands and products to best match their personalities and lifestyles.”

We are a generation of choice and instant gratification and we like to suit ourselves; we are loyal to the brands that best serve purpose in our lives. We differ from previous generations in this regard because “the amount of information that this generation has about purpose as well as breadth of choice in what can meet any one of their personal purposes is greatly magnified compared to the past,” Stanfield tells BTR.

We are a generation living through social media and we absorb information through the mediums we find most comfortable; our smartphones and laptops and not so much traditional means like newspapers and television advertisements.

On appealing to millennials through advertising, the Huffington Post’s social media and brand strategist, Kim Garst advises companies to “build a true digital strategy and make sure it includes an extra helping of social media.” Online interaction is an important part of millennials’ purchasing decisions, for instance, we rely on websites like Yelp and Trip Advisor as part of our decision process.

On this point, Stanfield remarks that “Enough brands are doing things right that it’s hard to stand out without making an organizational imperative, and very easy to fall short without one.”

Stanfield also claims that online ads aren’t enough in this competitive time and that a certain level of interaction is necessary to truly gain a following of loyal customers.

“Social Media that simply pushes messaging that is merely traditional advertising into different channels will not engage; the days of being able to throw up a standard contest and generate a response are also long gone,” she says. “Loyalty-creating social media centers around common interests – perhaps it’s a brand or corporate purpose, or user-generated content about inventive brand application – is consistent with the brand personality and voice, and truly inspires a multi-participant exchange.”

We perhaps above all are a fickle generation us Millennials, always in search of the new whilst striving for authenticity and freedom of choice, all at a reasonable price. Getting our attention is more difficult because we are constantly bombarded with information but once we find our perfect product that suits us and our lifestyles, we remain loyal.

“The bar of expectation on how intuitive, easy, engaging, human customer service and digital interactions must be is higher than ever before,” Christina Stanfield reminds BTR. High Millennial standards will continue to challenge companies and ad and marketing agencies because we know what, how, and why we want what we want, and we want it now.