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Top 10 tips for marketing to millennials

As drinks producers fight tooth-and-nail to attract the elusive yet valuable millennial consumer, here are 10 tips that brand builders would be wise to take on-board. By Alex Ririe of Coley Porter Bell.

Much has been reported about millennials – those born between 1980 and 2004 – from being self-obsessed and entitled on one hand or lauded as the “hero generation” that will save the planet on the other.

Whatever the truth, millennials mean big business, with some reports suggesting that they will represent 50% of the wine- and spirit-buying population by 2025 (Advisium Group).

So are these stereotypes accurate, and how should drinks brands adapt to engage this audience?

At strategic branding agency Coley Porter Bell, we have trawled through the hype to identify four types of millennial consumers. We take some of that thinking, combined with our drinks experience to provide practical and actionable ways in which drinks brands can appeal to this elusive and amorphous demographic.

Click through for more…

1. Have a higher purpose

Brewdog has been credited as a good example of a drinks brand promoting a “higher purpose”

The millennial generation has grown up in a time unlike any other – they have been exposed to global crises, political unrest and social injustices. Not to mention the fact that they are the most marketed-to generation ever – they have been there, done it, bought the t-shirt and returned it! So yes, they can be cynical, but they’re also more socially conscious than other generations and it’s why they are seeking brands that do more than sell. They want brands with a higher purpose and authenticity of deed. A great example is Brewdog, which exists with the sole mission to make people passionate about craft beer and to take a stand against bland mass-produced global lager brands.

2. Be sustainable, environmental and humanitarian

Thandi has made sustainability its central focus

Millennials have witnessed increasing environmental uncertainty with the threat of global warming, rising sea levels, deforestation and threatened extinction of habitats and species and increasing numbers of natural disasters and weather extremes. While they may not see themselves as environmentalists, they are environmentally and socially conscious. They are more likely to favour environmentally friendly policies and are more likely than other generations to pay more for responsibly made products. For brands this means having sustainability and a strong CSR policy at the heart of business. It is no longer an option to just pay lip service to it. South African wine brand Thandi is a great example. It was the first wine brand in the world to achieve Fair Trade accreditation. It ploughs profits back into initiatives designed to raise standards and education in its local communities – from funding education programmes and health care support to recreation initiatives. It’s also owned by 250 farm worker families who have a 62% share in the company.

3. Provide adventures and experiences

Experiences define who millennials are – they are an essential part of life’s rich tapestry and are deemed to help make them more complete individuals. From epic, photo-worthy events, to knowledge-enhancing experiences, drinks brands need to provide more than just the alcohol! Smirnoff has been brilliant at tapping into this desire with projects such as The Nightlife Exchange and of course Hendricks is renowned for providing quirky and engaging experiences across touch points.

4. Be discoverable

Millennials are more open to trying new things than any other generation and are happy to explore by melding genres, styles and tastes. Thanks to cheaper air travel, migration and technology the world is shrinking and they’ve been exposed to a cross pollination of cultures. They like to experiment and to be more fluid with their identities, to feel more unique and individual. The ability to discover brands is key. Clever or unusual distribution, brand ambassadors, a strong social presence and word of mouth can be much more powerful than traditional marketing techniques, which is good news for brands with limited budgets! Two great examples of this more discoverable approach are Wine Riot wine tasting events in the US which feature DJs, photobooths with props and costumes and an Instagram station that prints out your post if you use #WineRiot. Closer to home, London’s Wine Car Boot is also an unusual distribution channel that will appeal to the millennial consumer.

5. Provide VIP access

Millennials live for experiences and peer respect is also key. Part of enhancing their status is through demonstrating knowledge and insider information. Brands that help consumers to talk knowledgably about the product to their friends will curry favour. An important way to generate these kinds of advocates is to offer some form of virtual members’ club. For example Patron Tequila has the Patron Social Club which gives members special event access, promotions and news.

6. Be original

Millennials are fluid with their identities, gathering experiences, fashions, eras and genres like magpies. They are adept at ‘mashing’ these up to suit their tastes. Contradictions can be intriguing to the millennial – clashing the ugly and the pretty, the bold and the quiet or the new and the old. Drinks brands that push boundaries and dare to be original and novel will hold a distinct advantage with this audience. An example of this ‘clashing’ of categories is Absolut Tune – a sparkling drink made of a mix of New Zealand white wine and Absolut vodka. It’s unconventional and daring in its packaging too – a Champagne style bottle and cork, with a peelable sleeve.

7. Open up

Advances in technology have helped empower millennials unlike any generation before them. The internet and social media have given them an unprecedented platform to voice their opinions or to lobby institutions and organisations. Millennials like to feel part of decision-making and feel as though they can help set the agenda for brands or help solve challenges. They are also free-thinkers and enjoy the chance of a hackathon (collaborative problem solving events). Drinks brands that open up and allow millennials a say in the brand will forge strong, loyal relationships. Glenmorangie Taghta is a great example. It was the first ever crowd-sourced whisky. Fans of the whisky from over 30 countries who registered to be ‘Cask Masters’ were asked to vote on every aspect of the whisky – from the barrel finish, to the packaging, to the name.

8. Engage entrepreneurs

Millennials are entering the realms of work at a time when jobs are hard to come by and the world is struggling out of recession. This generation is determined to achieve its ambitions despite the fierce competition and will work hard to get there. Uniquely, unlike other generations, they are more likely to create their own ideal job if they can’t find it working for someone else. This makes them very entrepreneurial with a desire to not only better themselves but to also give back to the world around them. Chivas Regal has understood this well with its campaign – The Venture – which invited social entrepreneurs – those whose business ideas could transform communities or solve global challenges – to submit their business ideas with a chance to win a share of a US$1m fund. Diageo has also set up Distil Ventures to invest in new and growing spirits brands.

9. Make content work harder

With so much fighting for millennials’ attention, the ability to grab and retain attention quickly is key. Millennials are the most visual generation ever, often preferring to communicate with emojis rather than words. It’s also how the brain is hard wired and we have the ability to understand huge amounts of information from very small, usually visual stimulus. Coupled with the fact that many millennials are constantly on social media, it means that drinks brands have to work hard to make sure their social content can cut through quickly, and is relevant and engaging. Key to this is making brand design work hard, ensuring brand recognition within a split-second and also developing content that entertains and consumers want to share. A great example of creating very watchable and shareable content is Bacardi’s collaboration with Jamie Oliver. By featuring Bacardi products in content created by the celebrity chef on his Food Tube channel, the brand has enhanced visibility on cocktail search terms. Searches for ‘Mojito’ and ‘Cosmopolitan Cocktail’ yield Drinks Tube (which is part of the Food Tube channel) and on the first page.

10. Offer new news

A Microsoft study suggests that humans’ attention spans have fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2015 thanks to smartphones. Millennials are no less easily distracted so it’s important for drinks brands to continually offer new news. Whether this is through social media content, events and experiences or limited editions, the most successful brands never stop. Crucially however, it’s not about creating news for the sake of it, it has to be relevant, clever, shareable, entertaining etc. Absolut has always been master at this. With regular ‘must have’ limited editions and fantastic content such as its Absolut Nights campaign that generated 9.8 million views on YouTube.

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