The holy grail of brands and advertisers is reaching millennials, that misunderstood demographic that represents the future of every brand. This is the group everyone from retailers to TV networks is trying to reach in order to gain lifetime brand loyalty.
With college students returning to school this month, retailers are trotting out specials to attract that young generation. Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Best Buy allow students to sign up for a kind of wedding registry so family can contribute. Amazon is offering college students six-month free trials of its Prime membership and DirecTV allows students to access its NFL Sunday Ticket coverage without a satellite subscription.
I give those brands credit for at least thinking tactically. Industry experts estimate that the average family spends about $900 getting a child back to college, so the pot is big once you consider how many college students there are.
In addition, I’ve always maintained that brands should find opportunity at the point of a life event. So few do, thinking that cost and convenience will do the trick without considering when consumers are most likely to buy.
Sure, brands promote products seasonally. However, when retailers talk to consumers in a language that speaks to the current situation of the consumer, they have placed themselves within the consumer’s decision tree.
Millennials respond to brand meaning
But if those brands believe they are making life-long consumers this way, they are delusional. That is, they are delusional if they don’t have a brand that speaks directly to millennials at an emotional level. Life-long preference is not built on promotions. It’s built on the consumer’s self-identification within that brand.
Of the retailers mentioned above, I’d say only Amazon has a brand with appeal. The three retailers mentioned – Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Best Buy – are struggling to hold onto market share so any promotional fix will only be temporary. (DirecTV and NFL Sunday Ticket is a different animal. The brand carrying the meaning is the NFL.)
So, I give a nice pat on the back to those retailers for thinking about a life moment for potential consumers. To reach them earlier in the decision tree, where true preference lies, you need a brand millennials want to spend their lives with.