Our client services intern, Lindsey Case, shares her Millennial lens on “old” brands coming back in style.
Marketing to Millennials is a hot topic across brand positioning and retail promotion. With lives founded in instant gratification and individuality, we’ve become a hard to reach demographic. What do we want? Where are we now? Millennials may be illusive, but are critical: now controlling half of all purchasing power in the United States, the engagement of young consumers is essential for success. As a 90’s kid, I set out to understand one youthful phenomenon in particular: Millennial obsession with what was, and how brands are repositioning things of the past for modern success.
Nostalgic marketing efforts strategically tap into romantic notions of old things . In building brand resilience with a particular audience, this is usually accomplished through wistful examples and emotions. More and more, in seeking to attract the attention of Millennials, brands are innovating products and perspectives. What was considered “old school” now reads on-trend. Outlined here are prominent Millennial preferences, how some reputable brands revamped, and how their work exemplifies the influence of reminiscence with Millennials.
Styles from the previous millennium are cycling back around. The apparel company, Champion – founded in 1919 as a producer of team uniforms – has come full circle from traditional gyms to trendy retailers. In the 1980s and 1990s, Champion produced sportswear for the NBA and NFL; their consumer-facing products targeted kid, teen and college-aged athletes. After league partnerships disintegrated, the apparel company sought to be accessible outside of sports retailers. Champion’s most recent push into the modern market came this April, announcing a collection with Urban Outfitters. The two brands collaborated to produce colorful sweats with vintage vibes, continuing Champion’s transition from active apparel to luxury loungewear. Positioning as high-end allows Champion to integrate with the mass of Millennials that value quality and exclusivity.
Active & Amplified Experiences
As consumer appetite for digital grows, brands are acting accordingly and leaning into the mobile app, e-commerce and social media spheres. This accommodation is the key to accessing young consumers – according to Nielsen, 97% of Millennials are smartphone users. Additionally, The Entertainment Software Association identifies that 56% of Americans under 35 play video games. In short: gamer kids became tech-savvy twenty and thirty-somethings. Back in July 2016, The Pokémon Company and Niantic, Inc. launched Pokémon GO, a game that swapped Game Boy consoles for smartphones. Pokémon GO adapted content from original editions into an on-the-go application. But to resurrect Poké Balls was not enough: Pokémon GO includes augmented reality and location-based features, resonating intensely with digitally-minded Millennials. Young adults were able to experience a childhood craze in a modernized method. More than one year later, the community hosts 65 million monthly active users worldwide. Harnessing nostalgia, tech and the power of Pikachu has allowed Pokémon to re-engage a dwindling demographic.
Me > We
Gratification and personalization are cornerstones of Millennial expectations. From subscription boxes to personal shoppers, brand experiences are evolving to meet the demand for quick customization. For the timeless name of Coca-Cola, the demand to blend classic and cool became apparent – the company needed to reposition a declining category, as only 18% of Millennials regularly engage with soft drinks. In a revival effort, summer 2014 brought “Share a Coke” to the United States. The campaign maintained the iconic red label and scripted brand mark, adding a name to each bottle or can. From “Anna” to “Zack,” Coke mass-produced personalization. Coke’s most recent extension now features 1000 first names, covering more than 77% of Millennials and teens. Just-for-me marketing is what brought the 131-year-old product sales growth for the first time in a decade. Ultimately, Coca-Cola set high shopper expectations for individualized experiences.
Why This Matters
Some companies are able to upgrade from grandma status to with-it mom. But what does this mean in the greater scheme of brand and product positioning? You can teach an old brand new tricks. In fact, being trend conscious and adaptable in practice is essential to maintaining relevance with Millennials and Gen Z-ers. Perception is reality, and their sentiments towards a brand are what solidify young adults’ decisions to engage or evade. The more positive the associations, the better.
As a Millennial, I believe there are two things that speak volumes about brands and their consideration of young consumers. 1) a keen understanding (and successful execution) of innovation; as well as 2) an effort to meet me where I’m at. In both respects, Champion, Pokémon and Coca-Cola hit the nail on the head.
First, nostalgia is enough to draw in, but not necessarily to make the catch. Disney Channel tugs at my eight-year-old heartstrings, but I refuse to give into That’s So Raven and Boy Meets World remakes. Reminiscent brand experiences need to be for me today – not me yesteryear. Pokémon Red 2.0, still on Game Boy SP, would bust; Pokémon GO, offering digital immersion from your professional device, is relevant to a demographic that never leaves their smartphone behind. Coke deems an old-school product oh-so desirable through the illusion of customization. Champion overhauls dyes and designs to make loungewear a luxury. Simply put: Millennials won’t fit the mold, so adapt the model to attract young minds.
Second, the potential for progress and an excess of technology has made Millennials both forward-thinking and impulse-acting. To be in, a brand must be similarly structured. I already have a smartphone in my hand; make an app. I shop at Urban Outfitters; get on their shelves. Nothing catches my eye in the beverage aisle; make your product pop. With busy schedules – and a tendency for brand loyalty – young consumers are likely to try something that stands apart, but unlikely to go out of their way to do it. Drop into the pre-existing path to get noticed and notarized.
Overall, positioning based on reminiscing shows an understanding of the Millennial mindset. Feeling and functionality can create the perfect storm. Bringing a product of the past back and making it relevant indicates a great deal of consumer consciousness, as well as brand awareness. And who knows, maybe the next generation will think what we wore and did was cool, too. Or not. Hopefully not.
Photos courtesy of Champion, Coca-Cola, Pokemon