Millennials: a force to be reckoned with!

Jeff Hilton, co-founder and CMO, BrandHive, poses the question: so what’s all the fuss about millennials?

It seems like everyone is taking about the millennial generation. Why is that? Most likely because these 80+ million consumers are consistently breaking the rules established by their baby boomer parents and siblings to set their own course in almost every aspect of their lives, from the workplace, to how they shop, to how they buy, to how they consume. And, in particular, their attitudes about health and wellness are no exception.

Millennials are the next consumer wave for healthy lifestyle products

For the past decade or so, marketing healthy foods and beverages has primarily been focused on the baby boomers. And they are a dominant demographic force to be sure. But not enough attention is paid, in my opinion, to the emerging, up-and-coming consumers for the healthy lifestyle products many of us manufacture and sell.

Millennials will soon be the single largest global demographic segment, and these 18-33 year olds are indeed out to change the world. Make no mistake about that.

But for today’s functional food and beverage marketer who has long targeted the aforementioned baby boomer, making the transition to successfully reach millennials is not as easy as it seems. Marketing healthy products to a boomer and marketing healthy products to a millennial couldn’t be more different tasks; yet, our inclination as marketers is to pitch them the same way and approach them with similar strategies and tactics. And that’s just plain wrong.

Millennials want and demand both choice and engagement

As a base premise, it’s important to understand that millennials seek and embrace choice. In fact, they take pride in the choices available to them and like to have a wide range of product options they can select from. They want to buy products that fit and, even better, enhance their chosen lifestyle.

So, as manufacturers, our products must demonstrate both relevance and value to this demographic in terms of what they are about, and what they want to accomplish. They will not build their daily routine around your products. You must earn your spot and actively work to maintain it.

Millennials also want to connect with brands on both a rational and emotional level. And unless you foster that type of relationship, brand loyalty will never flourish. The kind of give and take relationship that all marketers seek to create between brand and consumer is founded on trust, and that trust is built by allowing millennials to actively participate in and interact with the brand.

They want to customise what you offer to their own particular needs and lifestyle. They may be open to listening to your messaging or viewing your content, but it will be on their own terms and on their own timeline. If you as a brand are not willing to open your doors to them, they will most likely not become loyal customers. It’s really that simple.

It is not easy for established brands, seeking to cultivate millennial customers, to readily give them that type of unfettered access. I get that. But we must seek to understand that the rules of engagement have shifted in favour of the consumer, and millennials relish that control and transparency. They are not about to give it up. So, to be frank, if you want to play, you go by their playbook.

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