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What Does ‘Brand Love’ Mean to Younger Generations?

Posted By: SGK June 26, 2018

As we think about families in modern society, there are a lot of dynamics that veer away from historic views of males as the breadwinner. Decision making within these households are conducted in a more democratic way — not as hierarchical.

Traditional life stages are evolving toward a less linear model — sometimes opting to have children before marriage, or enter the workforce without finishing college. There is more openness and choice, and less pressure of pursuing traditional models than prior generations had.

The role of technology (particularly Wifi) is changing consumer purchase behavior within those new, less traditional family units. Consumers now expect brands to embrace technology and expect brands to connect their digital and analog journeys while integrating experiences that simplify their on-the-go lifestyles.

While Millennials and Gen Z start to form their own families, it is time as brands to consider how the two generations differ and how to better connect with them in relevant ways. Unlike the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, and Gen X who came before; Millennials and Gen Z grew up with social media and video games, and experienced 9/11, school shootings and the pursuit of marriage equality through a very different lens.

For the last several years, there has been a lot of brand language based on “transparency” — however, transparency has now changed to proof — which is a much higher standard. A higher standard for brands to take action if they’re going to win today’s modern consumers. Actions clearly speak louder than words, and proof will be required from brands.

What are the differences between Gen Z and Millennials?

Gen Z have unique characteristics around hard work, thinking about their future, and competition. As we think about Gen Z, they are digital, social and mobile to the core, but possess very traditional views. They’re really old souls in young bodies — which is a very different world view than those who are just 10 years older.

Millennials are highly collaborative, in comparison, Gen Z is highly competitive. Pioneers of social platforms, millennials were a bit naïve as to what they shared on social media in the beginning. Gen Z learned from the mistakes of Millennials and now have their privacy settings on high — this has been true long before Facebook and Cambridge Analytica made headlines. In order to hand over data, Gen Z wants to receive something of value.

While Millennials embrace environmentally friendly movements, including sustainable packaging, in hopes to reduce their carbon footprint, Gen Z embraces inclusivity and equality. Understand, there is a shift in what is important for this consumer group.

Millennials are known for having a short attention span, while Gen Z has redefined the definition. Brand marketers must be faster and contextually relevant when it comes to content marketing. With attention spans shrinking, brands are using emotional connections and innovation to break through.

READ: 4 Key Trends That Define How Millennials Interact With Brands

The reality is, love is a powerful metaphor for what drives brand success. The most successful brands are usually the most loved brands. When it comes to brands, generating love through emotional connections is crucial. During the vast majority of consumer purchases, we make an emotional decision. Typically, consumers don’t sit down with a spreadsheet to help with these decisions, rather we refer back to our preferred brands — those we feel connection and trust.

It’s important to understand today’s modern consumer wants consistency and spontaneity, which makes it very hard for brands since consistency generally fights with spontaneity. Consistency might also instill boredom or fatigue in younger shoppers, and the brand risks becoming too predictable. Today, modern consumers can switch their brand preferences to cater to their spontanious needs.

We do see divergence in terms of consumers with respect to what they say and what they actually do. A recent survey by FutureCast found the following six mindsets are important factors that drive emotional connections with brands:

1. Social Circle — conversational and participative. 

The social circle mindset is all about whether your brand is a part of cultural conversation. Cultural conversations generate word of mouth, and particularly important for this consumer group, word of mouse. These are brands that people talk about, even when they may not exist in the marketplace or geographical area yet.

Is your brand part of cultural conversations? Culturally relevant brands like Apple, Starbucks, and Snap are!

2. Self — emotional connection. 

The ‘self’ mindset drives price elasticity and frequency of usage — which results in greater share of wallet or share on stomach, etc. Brands with a strong emotional connection get a disproportionate amount of volume and typically, a small premium for their product or service. 

Does your brand create an emotional connection? Millennials and Gen Z consumers feel emotional connections to brands like Red Bull, Sephora, and Nike!

3. Innovative — reinventing. 

Consumers today prefer brands that are always trying to be more useful. If your brand is willing to completely innovate, you probably have an advantage. 

Is your brand constantly improving and reinventing itself? Brands like Google, PlayStation, and Intuit are leading the way!

4. Trusted — puts consumer needs first.

Trust is about being remarkably consistent. This is earned very slowly and you give back very quickly. For most brands, you have to take actions to win trust. It’s not about communication messaging — in fact, communication messaging around trust result in brands that fail — there are big penalties to pay if you fall short.

Is your brand remarkably consistent? Consumers know what to expect from brands like FedEx, Chipotle, and Southwest!

5. Purpose — adding good.

Adding to society through cause-related marketing is a big driver for younger consumers. Brands must look for opportunities to close a purpose-gap. Taking on large issues and closing a purpose-gap creates value to consumers.

Does your brand add good to society? Brands like TOMS, Dove, and AT&T work hard for causes!

6. Accessible — simplifies my life. 

This is about being hyper-useful and hyper-convenient. For brands competing with a lower price model or within certain categories, like toilet paper, modern consumers are more open to move to private label offerings. For brands of higher price points, like cars and travel categories, specific brands will be more important to Millennials.

Is your brand hyper-useful and hyper-convenient? Younger generations love brands that provide simplicity like Amazon, Venmo, and Netflix!

Emotional connections are crucial — consumers definitely prefer brands and use emotional connections to explain differences and brand performance. Ordinary brands don’t have much price elasticity and don’t get the frequency needed to create extraordinary brands, so there’s a connection between emotional ‘love brands’ and performance.

As you think about your brand, understand you have to be willing to give up some equity in your old models, as innovation is a key part of consumer preference that is changing the landscape in a major way.