Millennials want to help your brand share its story

A lot of marketing attention has been focused on the trends and habits of the Millennial generation, and for good reason. The demographic is about 80 million strong and represents the largest group of consumers ever.

Currently, this age group accounts for about 21 percent of all consumer spending and it's up to brands to figure out the secret to attracting Millennials to garner some of that share.

"The brand value formula used to be the sum of functional and emotional divided by price. This definition, because of Millennials, is now dead. The new definition is functional, emotional and participation divided by price," said Jeff Fromm, EVP at ad agency Barkley and co-author of "Marketing to Millennials."

Fromm provided a keynote devoted entirely to "Millennials: Now seating 80,000,000," earlier this week at the Fast Casual Executive Summit in New Orleans.


Much of the new participation factor is driven by technology. The Millennial generation, Fromm said, is the first group of "digital natives" and they're 2.5 times more likely to sample new technologies.

To include participation, brands should present these consumers with an opportunity to co-create their products, co-create the customer experience and co-create the marketing message.

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"Millennials thrive on their peer network, so it is a game changer if your brand is 'shareworthy.' Content excellence becomes more important. Millennials love brands with a purpose; with a disruptive schema," Fromm said. "If the content features a new, bigger schema that is uncomfortable, that's where Millennials thrive."

This new consumer wants brands to be "story-doing" rather than storytelling; they want to not only be part of the story, but to do the storytelling for you, he added.

Six steps to attracting Millennials

To achieve this objective, Fromm suggests six steps to follow, including:

  1. Embracing "useful as the new cool." "It's not that complicated. If you're wildly useful as a brand, then Millennials will think you're wildly cool," he said.
  2. Build a listening strategy. Fromm used Dairy Queen's social media team as an example. The company responded to a tweet from an employee who was dreading working during busy Free Cone Day. Dairy Queen sent her messages, memes, photos, etc. all day long to lift her spirits and help her through the chaos. By the end of her shift, she publicly thanked the company for making it a great day.
  3. Buying into your brand idea is more powerful than buying your product. "It's not about you and your brand. It's now about me and how I feel about your brand," Fromm said. "The brands that have purpose will win."
  4. Design a sense of fun and adventure into your brand. Chicken wings are popular among Millennials, Fromm said, because they convey a sense of adventure – experimenting with different sauces — and shareability.
  5. Embrace disruption. "When you don't, you allow startups to," Fromm said, pointing to the Dollar Shave Company as an example. (See brand's story below).
  6. Keep their loyalty. Forty-five percent of Millennials will go out of their way to shop at stores that have rewards. Explicit loyalty (buy three, get the fourth free, for example), is less valuable than implicit loyalty (knowing customer names, favorite meals).

Examples of brands with a 'disruptive schema'

Fromm presented a handful of brands that have hit on this marketing formula:

Jell-O was introduced in the 1800s, and is an "iconic, mature" brand, Fromm said. Its recent "Pudding Face Mood Meter" campaign appealed to tech-savvy Millennials with its use of Twitter. The company navigated Tweets in search of "frownie faces" and gave away pudding to those posts' authors. "You can't eat pudding and not smile," an employee said in the ad. The company measured how many frownie faces turned to smiley faces and began keeping track of each, and translated the results onto an actual face smiling or frowning on a large billboard. Eventually, the smiles began to outnumber the frowns, and numerous tweets were sent thanking Jell-O for the free pudding.

Krispy Kreme found a way to connect to the digital natives through a mobile app that alerted users whenever a hot batch of doughnuts was coming out of the oven from a nearby store. The modern "Hot Now" app ties into the brand's iconic "Hot Now" window message.

Taco Bell announced a product launch on Snapchat, a photo messaging app used mostly by Millennials.

Warby Parker is an eyeglasses company that designs frames in-house and allows customers to try them out before making a purchase. And, for every pair of Warby Parker glasses purchased, a pair is donated to someone in need. "This company is wildly disruptive," Fromm said.

Toms Shoes has a similar philanthropic angle and therefore yields a "high participation, high shareworthy" reputation from Millennials.

Chipotle's "The Scarecrow" campaign depicts a scarecrow's journey to bring wholesome food back to the people by providing an alternative to the processed food that dominates his world, according to a company press release. Fromm said the company is trying to get credit for tapping into its "purpose" theme.

Finally, the Dollar Shave Club's edgy business plan and messaging campaign takes a humorous, bold swing at Gillette. (See video below).

Read more about marketing and branding.

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