Can legacy CPG brands win over Millennial consumers, or are Millennials simply a mystical unicorn that can’t be captured in the wild?
If you are tired of hearing about why you need to market to Millennials, consider the fact that this generation is the biggest in American history, and its members have a large and rapidly increasing spending power that is estimated to be worth $10 trillion over their lifetimes.
On top of that, Millennials are often seen as trendsetters that influence and reshape the habits of other generations. That makes the elusive Millennial consumer arguably the hottest topic of discussion across boardrooms of big-name CPG brands.
However, it is important to note that Millennials are not so different than the generations before them. It’s true that they have evolved in certain aspects of their lifestyles, but so have older generations such as Baby Boomers. At the end of the day, all anyone wants is happiness, prosperity, and a better customer experience.
As a CPG strategy consultant who also happens to be a Millennial, I have used several impactful strategies to help my clients win with my generation. Here are the top five strategies I believe big-name CPG brands should focus on in 2019 to attract Millennials.
Learn to “Make Friends”
If CPG brands want to build brand relevance with Millennials, they need to play nice in the sandbox. Just like when we were children, making friends by sharing is a growing experience. In the business world, CPG brands can do this in two impactful ways.
The first is by partnering with other brands that have positive images with Millennials. Even if your brand doesn’t incite a certain emotion within Millennials on its own, partnering with another organization that does could help it do so. A great example of this strategy is when Smirnoff partnered with digital media company Vice on an initiative to increase the number of women headliners in electronic music.
The second way to “make friends” is by collaborating directly with the Millennial consumers that your brand is trying to win over. Millennials enjoy collaborating with brands, and they don’t necessarily see a hard boundary between themselves and the brands they support. As the first digitally-native generation, they also don’t consume products in silence; they review, tweet and post YouTube videos about their experiences with brands. A great example of collaboration between consumers and brands is Lay’s “Do us a Flavor” contest, in which Lay’s asks consumers to vote for new potato chip flavors on social media.
"If CPG brands want to build brand relevance with Millennials, they need to play nice in the sandbox."
Be Authentic…and Transparent
More than any other generation, Millennials value authenticity when deciding which brands they support. In fact, 90% of Millennials say brand authenticity is important, compared to 85% of Gen Xers and 80% of Boomers. Millennials expect brands to have a consistent, genuine identity throughout every aspect of the customer experience, from marketing and advertising to customer support. They also want communication from brands to be about more than just selling a product. Growing up immersed in the proliferation of digital ads, Millennials instead want to feel like brands are building a relationship with them as individuals, not just as consumers.
Just as Millennials value authenticity, they also value transparency, particularly in regards to where products come from and what’s in them. No longer can CPG brands hide behind marketing claims on the front of a product’s packaging. To gain the trust of Millennials, they have to be clear and honest about what their products contain and how they are manufactured.
"90% of Millennials say brand authenticity is important, compared to 85% of Gen Xers and 80% of Boomers."
Ride the “Better for You” Wave
Millennials have led the way in launching “better for you” products from a niche to a mainstream market. From beauty and personal care to food and beverage, the products that Millennials are buying are the ones that enhance their quality of life.
This shift in consumer preferences has led to a desire for clean, organic, minimally processed products that have fewer ingredients. According to a study by Amplify Snack Brands, Millennials eat these types of snacks more often throughout the week than any other group. In fact, almost 90% of Millennials are eating “better for you” snacks at least once a week. Similarly, in the beauty and personal care category, the natural space continues to grow rapidly, at roughly twice the rate of conventional products.
Stand for Something
Although product features and prices are still of considerable importance to consumers, CPG brands must acknowledge the emerging driver of Millennials’ purchasing decisions: standing for something. Millennials often buy products that are aligned with issues or causes they believe in. Never think of your brand as just a brand. Even the most ordinary CPGs can appeal to Millennials by connecting with something larger than the product itself.
For example, one of the biggest causes supported by Millennials is sustainability. To win with Millennials, CPG brands should promote sustainability as part of their corporate responsibility. Make it clear why and how products are created with the environment in mind. Promote eco-friendly initiatives and embed them into your company’s culture.
"Millennials often buy products that are aligned with issues or causes they believe in."
Digital-First, Not Digital-Only
To attract Millennials, CPG brands need to sell their products where and how these consumers shop. Millennials are overwhelmingly blending physical and digital channels and are expecting seamless and consistent experiences between them. For example, while home delivery is still Americans’ preferred fulfillment option for online grocery shopping, Millennials overwhelmingly prefer click and collect because they can bypass shipping costs and expedite their shopping. This means that CPG brands must focus on supporting an omnichannel customer experience in 2019. Understanding the nuances of supporting a digital-first, not digital-only, strategy is key in attracting Millennials.
Joshua Schall, MBA has an 11-year background in the emerging and intersecting CPG/FMCG categories of functional food and beverage and nutritional products.
He currently is the owner of J. Schall Consulting, an Austin, TX-based boutique management consulting company that focuses on digital growth strategies for CPG/FMCG brands that range from pre-launch to portfolio companies with $500M in yearly revenue.
Joshua enjoys an active healthy lifestyle but still finds himself spending way too much time scanning social media and digital grocery aisles for new consumable brands.