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They are the core spenders in the world and the dream segment of nine out of ten brands.
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The essential 4Cs of millennial marketing

They are the core spenders in the world and the dream segment of nine out of ten brands.
  • 'How do you market to the generation addicted to buying things yet vary of every advertisement and deal that reaches them,' asks Abhik Choudhury, Chief Strategist & Founder, Salt and Paper Consulting.
  • As a solution, he further shares 4Cs that marketers can keep in mind while targetting millennials.

The youngest millennial would be graduating this year and the oldest would be ready to enter forties. It is understandable if the internet lingo would have made you believe they are high schoolers and undergrad Beliebers who love to follow trends and post memes. While the truth is most are working, creating those trends and didn’t have a virtual life before college. They are the core spenders in the world and the dream segment of nine out of ten brands. In the last decade justified by the abundance of internet information and acquired wokeness, they went from being the most brand loyal to least brand loyal demographic. One thing though is certain, they demand a certain shareability from every brand they engage with - shared purpose, passion and experience. So how do you market to the generation addicted to buying things yet vary of every advertisement and deal that reaches them? This is where the 4Cs come in:

Custom: It’s 2020 and the clutter across is so much that millennials get hooked to anything curated for them, makes them feel unique and extra special (right up there with free shipping and easy returns). Even if it is the packaging of cola, chocolate bars, shoes or headphones. The personalisation though needs to happen in both marketing and operations for it to truly work.

So Sainsbury’s will do geotargeting to people around their stores and treat them with coupons on specific products and categories they have previously purchased. Content streaming sites will show different movie posters in accordance to visual preferences. Even news sites are tailoring the position of articles to the relevant interest of returning visitors. If you want to design your favorite sneakers on NikeID and get a personalized video of your favorite athlete with your design and the order confirmation - it is already a reality. These kinds of surgical custom designed products and services are the new normal, irrespective of the category. Any brand that still thinks it can prosper with the millennials by talking to all of them at the same time is basically trying to trend the thousand year old Yoda during baby Yoda’s pinnacle.

And you can see it even in brand ambassador choices, luxury carmaker Audi once only signing global HollyWood sweethearts like Hugh Jackman (peak of Wolverine) & Chris Hemsworth (peak of Thor) is now enlisting Stephanie Gilmore, the seven time world surfer champion and Masie Williams, best known from the cult GoT driving their electric models. The millennials want to feel the communication is realistic and made for them.

Conscious: In a world that feels on the edge all the time, a sense of shared purpose can be an exceptionally underrated motivator for millennials. They were the first generation coming out of their puberty listening to the desperate warnings of climate change. While stories of dire animal extinction and water wars have been there for two decades, they are finally in a position to do something about it. So when they have to choose between two global sports shoe brands one made from ocean waste, another from regular synthetic materials, the preference shift is automatic. When for baby boomers likeability of the products is paramount, millennials desire corporations they can look upto and pride in the said association. Overnight millennial hashtag takeovers on social media can tell you, an ethically and environmentally careless brand will be bulldozered irrespective of the billion dollar revenues it might have clocked until then. Aerie and Rihanna's profitable lingerie brands rightfully promote body positivity and comfort over being seduction machines. At the same time, the once legendary Victoria’s Secret, still insensitive in gauging the evolution of beauty and inclusion, consequently had to close 50+ stores in North America and even cancel its annual fashion show over declining viewership.

Just last year Coke’s bold headline read: 'Don't buy Coca-Cola if you're not going to help us recycle!'. Levis’ claims to have saved 3 billion liters of water till now and their corporate goal this 2020 is to make 80% of denims with their Water<Less™ techniques. Fast fashion giants H&M with their Garment Collecting programme promises to use 100% of clothes gathered and even give gift vouchers in exchange to preserve a more sustainable environment. Do they stand the conscious test of millennials? While Forever 21 went bankrupt last year, H&M as per official statement went on thriving globally with 33 percent increase in India, Poland by 21 percent, in Mexico by 18 percent and in Russia by 12 percent. And while denim brand Diesel filed for bankruptcy last March, Levis’ went public the same month, entered Fortune 500 and saw an annual revenue growth of over 13.7%. So yes, sustainable stands by brands can be both socially contributive and profitable.

Community: Millennials work on two spectrums simultaneously; personalisation and togetherness, much more than any other preceding generation. As much as they would need to feel special, they feel empowered with the knowledge of shared interests. That's why Marvel Universe becomes the global infallible franchise of the decade while Xiaomi (approx. 3% to 30%) and OnePlus (approx. 4% to 40%) enter the pinnacle of their smartphone segments in a highly competitive Indian market in just 4 years. And that’s the beautiful fabric of a strong brand community, it can create viable, long-term fans who not only purchase more but turn into serious advocates impressed with the quality of service and value system. Another reason community building is so imperative for millennial brands is that e-commerce in 2020 is deal driven and opportunist. A pure black Adidas training t-shirt is available on two dozen e-commerce websites from anywhere between 10-70% discount. The alarming bit though is that the same is true for similar competition offerings of Nike, Puma, Reebok and Under Armour. Without an earned community, none of them can survive in such a cannibalistic mass market.

In the end we are living in that stage of civilisation where below the layers of custom we all love to be a part of a cult. Gifting that feeling of belongingness is the key to become more than a product, become the shared 'experience' you keep hearing about every now and then. A cafe like Starbucks boosts walk-ins from the stay at home generation with a loyalty program that makes the music playing at the cafe available for download through Spotify, Lyft users collating ride points for in-store purchases and the occasional free Instagram friendly Pumpkin spice.

You are a new beer, you need to socialise in strategically designed brunches with the right crowd. You are a tea cafe and you need to do poetry readings and book signings so that a shared community evolves beyond the listed product or service. As long as the word is being positively spread by your homegrown community even before your advertising agencies, you will keep growing 2020 or 2050.

Connected: Harnessing the intricate bond between audiences and brands technologically and emotionally. If there is one thing millennials respect as much as black friday deals, it is a brand who is smart and knows where, when and how to reach them real time. And especially since most know (and approve if the overall experience evolves remarkably) they are being tracked 24*7 through IoT hotwords and their internet journey, they expect you to market to them in smarter ways. Precisely why you need to be clever, it is an open book exam and just knowing the definition won’t impress the reviewer anymore. Automation is the expected form of communication and each product should transform into more than what it used to be. Smartphones are mini DSLRs, smartTVs convertible laptops and even players like Dyson have patented headphones that will purify the air around. Connected brand relationships are forged on transparency, value and relevance, are responsive to trends and proactively encourage immersive and memorable experiences.

Millennials are habituated to infinite information and reviews at their fingertips. You can’t work in silos with a “great product” anymore, if your competition knows how to trend his pizza bar or sneaker cafe they are the one who will be written about and the hashtags tailor made for. Your marketing via technology needs to be connected at all levels and soon enough you will see your audience gravitating towards you.

Upon deep data mining, Vans sees that skateboarders are one of their biggest supporters and decides to host House of Vans pop-up locations at skateparks within major cities like NYC and Chicago. This gave skateboarders a feeling of exclusive belongingness whilst sharing thoughts with like minded people, listening to live music, and shredding. What was step two? Vans then promoted the launch of their new shoe line honoring David Bowie in these pop ups.

Millennials are like those misunderstood artists who might come across as aloof in the first go but when stirred with honesty they manifest into the most passionately driven customers. Conscious. Custom. Community. Connected. Go unlock your core audience’s full potential.

- By Abhik Choudhury, who is the chief strategist & founder of Salt and Paper Consulting. He is also a visiting faculty of Market Research & Campaign Planning for the Advertising & PR department at Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. You can reach him at abhik@saltandpaper.co

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