Building A Brand In The Age Of Millennials
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No matter what your industry is, if you’re building a consumer brand that specifically targets people in the age group of 18-35 years of age, chances are you’ve seen your share of struggles in building customer loyalty, retention and brand awareness that is deeper than your Facebook reach, Instagram likes and SEO ranking.
Growth and brand building, which on most days feels like holding a headstand (for those who’ve tried), requires balance, focus and a strong core — you want to keep the engagement and MAUs (Monthly Active Users) growing, but also want to make sure your users remember you and come back to you.
Let’s add some context. Who am I? I’m a millennial, and co-founder of a company that every month connects 2 million users, across 7 cities in India to local businesses through recommendations. Why does my opinion matter? It doesn’t, like all other free opinions floating on the internet.
While we’re just about 1% of where we want to be, there is a couple of mistakes we’ve made and learnt from. Someone once said ‘Sharing is caring’; and if our learnings help you make better product and business decisions, we’ll all be better for it.
1. Define Why You Exist In 140 Characters
Defining why you exist and the job you do for your users is your starting point. Today, there are new start-ups cropping up every other day, and incumbents (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.) are looking to tread into every foreseeable territory.
In this environment, knowing how you define your business and value proposition to your users is very important.
As far as millennials go, a lukewarm brand message doesn’t cut it into their territory. So don’t beat around the bush while telling them why you exist. Say it with confidence, and brownie points if you can say it in a tweet.
2. Context Is King
The big challenge with digital marketing is that while avenues to communicate with your users are limitless, avenues to do this at scale are limited to Facebook and Google. So if your brand is one of the many posts a user will see on their Facebook feed, or one of the links on page 1 of Google, what you need to answer is — why would they click on my link? Which is where context of the medium and context of your message become important?
What works on Instagram doesn’t work on Facebook (at least for us); what works on Facebook doesn’t work on Google; and what works on Google isn’t always what our direct users are clicking on/consuming. There’s plenty information on each of these platforms- so have a point of view.
(Note: When I say works, I’m referring to performance as per set benchmarks)
3. Community is Bae
In my experience, the community you build around your product is what will determine your success in the long run. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to build community; but knowing what you want your community doing for you, and what you want to do for your community is the imperative. What you reward your user for, and subsequently what your user rewards you with need to be tied to some “thing”. The challenge of community building is that it needs to be measured by both quantitative and qualitative metrics. Loyalty can’t be bought; and the metrics you measure need to reflect the same.
4. Keep It Real
If there’s any one group of users that can single-handedly sniff out BS, it’s millennials. Being a millennial comes with having opinions about anything and everything; and what wins in such climates is authenticity. I guess that’s why influencer marketing when implemented well does magic for brands; and also why Pepsi’s ad featuring Kendall Jenner on protests (mimicking protests around Black Lives Matter) bore the brunt of Twitter (and rightly so).
There’s also this trend of jumping on to what’s topical- homosexuality, women, gender equality, immigrants were the “trends” of the summer (thanks to a certain Mr. Trump). Some brands did a marvellous job of creating a conversation through a cause (Eg. Culture Machine’s First Day of Period Leave campaign) while others missed the spot.
5. Your Friends Are Not Your (Only) Users
Asking your friends what they think about your product is not a metric of success or failure. The temptation is real; you want your friends to use what you built, you want them to be in the know of every single feature you’ve launched. But your 1200 Facebook friends aren’t necessarily going to be the reason you build a billion-dollar company.
Product market fit is what happens when your product reaches out to people who are totally disengaged from your personal ecosystem. It’s when you overhear your product being spoken about while getting a coffee at Starbucks (true story) and when you see a stranger sitting on a flight next to you use your product (also true story). Moreover, it’s when your consumer reviews- good, bad and ugly- challenge you for the better.
6. Drop The Baggage
Pitching your product to a millennial requires you to speak their language. It doesn’t mean you change the message; it requires you to break it down in a way that your users know exactly what to expect from your product. As a founder/CEO, you know every single thing that your product can do for your user; but the trick really is in picking out that one thing that will get your consumer to think about you.
7. Show Me The Money
“Brand love” and “company success” don’t necessarily always overlap. There are more than enough brands that might have superfluous top line numbers that look amazing — 2 million likes, 4 million followers, etc. etc. – but that doesn’t mean a.) They have as many users coming to their product or that b.) They make money/are a thriving business.
So while brand love is well in its place, it still needs to be backed with company success. If your consumers “like” you, but are unwilling to pay for what you offer/enabling a revenue stream for you, something’s up. Join the dots of brand love and what you consider to be company success, and you’re golden.