Millennial loyalty toward traditional blockbuster brands is rapidly disappearing before our marketing eyes. Many of the brands that Generation Xers and baby boomers adore often don't resonate as well with the younger generation. And while they may recognize the brand names of their parents' world, they simply don't put the same stock in the brands' heritage and equity.
It's a shame. As a marketer who started his career targeting boomers, then Xers and now millennials, I hate to see years of all that brand-building start to fade. But, at the same time, it's an incredible challenge.
As heritage brands wrestle with how to stay mighty and relevant, what's a marketer to do? Particularly when you're an entrepreneur and run a small business?
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1. Recognize the new brand loyalty.
Back in the day, loyalty meant coming back to the same brand time and time again, almost in default mode. When you loved a brand, you just automatically deferred to it with no questions asked. That kind of loyalty doesn't exist with this generation, so you have to shift your definition if you want to gain their business.
Now, brand loyalty means actively choosing the brand each and every time after careful examination of the experience. Millennials aren't automatically loyal out of default, but they will stay with a brand when the experience is rewarding each time. They will actively decide to buy again based on that positive experience, or actively decide to go to another brand if the experience didn't live up this time around.
So, you need to actively work to make your brand the best choice every single time by offering a rich and rewarding experience each and every time.
2. Disrupt the routine.
We've seen millennials start and support businesses that disrupt the norm of the market and take compromise out of the experience. Witness Uber and Airbnb. As consumers, millennials won't settle for a downside in the transaction (like waiting at a corner in the rain for a taxi), so they'll choose a brand that eliminates the negatives.
You need to take a hard look at the experience you offer your customers and disrupt what has become the norm of the marketplace and get rid of the compromise. Then you win the millennials.
3. Have a purpose.
Millennials won't reward brands that are purely driven by profit. They want to see what the brand is doing to improve lives, support the planet or give back to communities. It doesn't mean it's all donation and charity. Sure, it could be about supplying clean drinking water in areas of need or how your innovation pipeline is improving outcomes, but it's about how the brand is adding value to people's lives.
Examine the purpose of your business, and weave it into your brand experience . . . and then make sure millennials know about it and appreciate it.
4. Take a stand.
Gone are the days of neutrality in marketing. When I was a brand manager leading brands, we would never take a stand on a social/political/economic issue for fear of alienating a part of our consumer base. But, millennials want to know and they want to choose their brands based on stated beliefs. We can't be silent anymore, or we risk looking tone-deaf and dated.
Communicate where you stand on certain issues that are relevant to your business and important to your customers. Then they'll stand by you.
You have to work beyond just the functional benefits of your product or service and add more value to millennials' lives. Sure, what your product physically does is important, but most millennials can get those functional benefits from your competitors, too.
What are you doing beyond just the product to offer more emotional benefits? The answer to this question will separate your brand from all the others they are evaluating, perhaps making you the active choice each time based on how you show up in their lives, what you have to offer.
Only then will you get the kind of millennial loyalty enjoyed by the emerging blockbuster brands of today.