Jeff Hilton, co-founder and chief marketing officer for branding agency BrandHive in the US, said the millennials market - made up of more than 100m consumers controlling $500bn in spending - is discerning and somewhat sceptical of large brands.
Speaking at Vitafoods Europe last week, he explained: “They've been inundated with brands since they were born, they can see behind the curtain of marketing. They get we’re marketing to them, they understand the process."
“Millennials are driving the private label business. They’re fine buying a generic form when they don’t want to pay additional for the brand, they are not necessarily wooed by huge brands. There are exceptions - I think Apple is one - but they prefer niche brands.”
“It’s very much a cost risk balance - what’s the chance I’ll be satisfied with this product if I purchase it? And they weigh that."
Appealing strongly to millennials is the story behind the brand. “Millennials are all about story telling. People remember stories long after they’ve forgotten your list of bullet points and selling points and things that bore them,” he said. “They want a story.”
Smith Teamaker, an artisan tea from Oregon in the US, gives consumers the chance to learn the provenance of each box’s ingredients by entering the batch code on its websites. Millennials can also ‘meet the teamakers,’ with profiles of people involved in the company, and learn more about the ingredients used.
Niche brands offer millennials a chance to engage with both the brand and fellow consumers. Here, the rise of user generated content - such as via social media - gives them a chance to connect with other consumers.
“They want information validated by people like them,” Hilton said.
“Giving millennials a place to share and build community with other millennials is the single most important thing a brand can do, if it really wants to reach to millennials.
“You’ve got to let them have a forum around their brand. You can either let them do it in your backyard, or they’ll go and do it other places online. Why not have them talking where you can observe and hear and understand?”
What is a millennial, anyway?
The ‘Share a Coke’ campaign is an example of a good millennial campaign, Hilton said. “The ‘Share a Coke campaign, it’s so millennial. This was one of the most successful promotions, it gave them a bump in the business that was massive.
Hilton defines millennials as those aged 19-32, coming from an ethnically diverse base, and who are independent thinkers. Perhaps most important, though, is their affinity for connectivity - smartphones, social media, and other methods of communication are all second nature.
And they’re connected all the time: accessing websites and information from their phones and other devices. Therefore, it’s essential for websites to work equally well on various platforms, Hilton said.
Millennials are approaching life differently to their parents’ generation, he added.
“They want choice, they demand choice, they define themselves by the ability to have choices. They’re open minded, they value diversity. They are deeper in debt than any previous generation. So they’re delaying decisions, marriage, other traditional decisions, till later in life.”
Millennials are not interested in health aspects that appeal to the older generations: heart health or healthy ageing, for example, he added.
“Millennials are interested in living their present life in fullest degree possible.
"Millennials ultimately, they want to be happy, they believe in life, they think it could be better, they’re optimistic.”