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6 steps – Building brand affinity with GenY

The spirit of GenY

The Millennials are a formidable generation – influential, imposing and captivating. The sheer size, range of life stages and diversity of the generation does provoke serious questions about how we have been framing, marketing and understanding them. They are not a homogenous whole – but have been shaped by distinct socio–economic trends.

Marketers have however been quick to paint them with a very broad brush stroke yet this generation is arguably one of the most diverse generations we have ever known. So they are different, in comparison to other cohorts, but within the GenY contingent itself are very heterogeneous. To define them in a neat box is alarming and naive.

Building brand affinity with GenY

So what does this all mean to marketers? How should brands successfully build affinity with this contentious, absorbing yet unquestionably influential generation?

Below are 6 tips to build affinity with GenY:

1.  Be subtle and authentic

Millennials typically don’t trust institutions or corporations unless their trust is earned – it must also seem believable and credible. Consequently, they seek open communication and transparency. Because of the widespread use of social media to learn about products, Gen Yers are more likely to buy from a brand that was referred to them by a friend, rather than one they saw in an advertisement. Just look at the power of the new wave of YouTube-created celebrities – Norwich-based make-up artist Tanya Burr has 2m followers and now her own line of products through Superdrug. The sweet spot for GenY is to demonstrate value that they believe in but not selling in an overt way – be authentic.

2. Provide variety and customization

For many brands, offering a wide range of customizable products is key to attracting Gen Y. From packaging to the actual product or service, brands need to offer an experience that is tailored for the Gen Y consumer. A great example is Levis who now offer an experience to have a pair of jeans match the exact shape and style of your body – a truly personal and customisable experience. Or Converse who offer a service for any consumer to design their own original trainer and pick it up from the store. A truly customisable service with a unique and individual end product.

3. Experiences are key

For Gen Y the rationale for buying into and consuming brands are fundamentally different from previous generations: they buy things they can tell others about; perhaps because of what the purchase says about them or even because they aspire to be part of the story that the brand has shaped. This shift explains why Gen Y gravitates towards inspirational experiences that a brand creates. Instead of the traditional advertising route, some brands are now, cleverly, moving their marketing budgets to events where Gen Y consumers can really experience the brand.

4. Think outside the advertising box

Today’s consumers, especially tech-savvy Gen Yers, are inundated with advertisements on a daily basis. The biggest mistake companies make when marketing to Millennials is to use traditional advertising channels like online banner ads that just don’t work with this group. With Millennials, it’s more effective to market with them rather than to market to them. Bring them into the story and make them feel are part of the brand and advertising experience. Belgian beer brand Vedett has for years shown the faces of their drinkers on the bottles’ labels. Imagine if you could choose your own message on #shareacoke and have it delivered to your friend at lunch!

5. Create opportunities for empowerment

The premise for Millennials regarding brand engagement is one of a genuine conversation – a philosophy not about shouting but an exchange. They need to feel that they really matter to the brand, like they can have a say and be part of creating something special with the brand. It’s all about active listening. Heineken encapsulates this sentiment so well with their brand design revolution driven and co-created by consumers – from nightclubs, events and even limited edition products

6. Mobile experience trumps brand loyalty

Brand loyalty counts for less and less among younger consumers, who are likely to head to competitors if their mobile experience isn’t what they think it should be. Almost 96% of consumers claimed they had abandoned a mobile website because of a poor experience, according the People’s Web Report. A good example is the conscious consumerism startup Zady – the very simple, beautiful and straight-forward experience. Ticking a lot of the GenY boxes.

Nicholas Harrisson