Can old brands attract younger consumers? They better!

At GKV, we have helped a lot of older established brands reignite growth. Here’s the common problem. I’ll use Kellogg’s Corn Flakes to demonstrate. I remember initially being very happy to see loyalty going up in household panel, only to realize that was because only the older, most loyal consumers were the only ones left. All younger, medium and light consumers were gone! The brand was heading to a very bad place. 😟 Continuing to go after more of your brand’s older consumers has limited upside for obvious biological reasons. You need to smartly broaden the brand’s appeal and attract relevant younger consumers. At GKV, we have developed a number of techniques for how to get older brands on a Peloton and back in shape. Here are just four.

How does your brand express itself?

The way brands express themselves has changed. Think of it like the difference between the office environment and working from home, a dinner party versus a come-as-you-are backyard barbecue. Brands need to be more authentic, approachable and vulnerable for today’s younger consumers, because that’s how they live their lives and express themselves. Oversharing is their way of life. Authentic IS aspirational! You need to relook at your Customer Persona, Brand Voice, Brand Guidelines… Take a look at this video showcasing Chock full o’Nuts. Same brand, same packaging, brand voice fits core older consumers’ perceptions of the brand, yet it is interesting and relevant enough that younger consumers are rediscovering it.

What does your brand care about?

Emotionally connecting with your consumer has always been critical to loyalty, but it has only grown in importance with today’s younger consumers. Brands are much more activist than ever before. Whether CEOs have moved to stakeholder capitalism is up for debate, but younger consumers definitely have. They expect brands to have a position and do something on the big issues, like climate change, fairness, inequality, hunger, kindness, etc., as well as embracing the little things that make their lives emotionally rich like being with friends, caring for their furry family and enjoying their favorite music. They need to be able to see themselves in your brand’s ads, if you want them to buy your brand.

How is your brand used?

Do you fit their lifestyle and habits? You probably do, or can, but they won’t know it until you tell them or, even better, show it. Millennials have had a huge impact, particularly with food, not only because of how they are doing things differently, but because other generations are adopting what they are doing. Millennials are incredibly comfortable with technology and exploring its limits. Technology has made it very easy to find and learn new and better ways of doing things. Coffee is an interesting case study. How do younger people drink coffee? They like cold brew and iced coffee. How can a couple of older brands build relevancy with this younger audience?

Where does your brand meet them?

Audience research is the obvious first place to start, whether you are looking at syndicated consumer research (e.g., Simmons, MRI), panel data (IRI, Nielsen) or even your own website analytics. Determine the profile of younger consumers you already have and use that to identify environments that will efficiently reach more of them and perceptually align the brand with them. Some likely environments are:

  • Over-the-top TV (OTT): Younger audiences are strongly aligned with watching TV programs without cable or satellite services. With media usage shifting due to the impact of COVID-19, OTT from the likes of Hulu, Roku or now Peacock and CBS All Access is being adapted by older audiences as well.
  • Social Media Networks – Organic and Paid: Social media has changed the way consumers view and engage with brands. While organic content will reach your already-engaged audience across age groups, with paid advertising in social media a brand can target both younger and older adults separately — by social media platform (Facebook vs. Snapchat or TikTok), targeting tactic and/or by creative execution.

Bottom Line

You need to be willing to try, test and adjust. That’s the beauty of digital. Since there is great breadth and depth to stock images, and it’s easy and fast to create new material, a brand can do both core and younger consumer creative, as well as some that is a mix. Don’t let your brand’s age define its customer base. Defining your target consumer by age is an old marketing habit that is no longer relevant. Either break from it or be prepared to suffer the consequences. 😵

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