Sunday, July 30, 2017

6 Things You Should Know about Millennials and Your Visual Branding

Millennials have turned the tables on traditional branding. Brands used to attract consumers like a gravitational pull based on affinity. By comparison, each millennial is their own brand, and they see it as their gravitational pull that attracts brands to them.

Millennials are too media savvy to be blitzed or brainwashed. They, instead, demand brands meet them on their own terms. They research everything first, trusting online recommendations from their social network "friends" and reviews from total strangers above all else. Then, after they've decided they're ready to interact with your brand and consider becoming your friend, they'll meet you "face to face."

In the recent Yahoo/DigitalLBi/Razorfish/Tumblr study, they determined the number one creative-related tactic for reaching millennials is to set the mood by capturing a mood moment.(1) Although the study was structured in terms of content marketing, the thought extends naturally to visual identity—the most expeditious means of delivering a brand's story.

Here are six things to keep in mind when dealing with millennials and your visual branding:

1. Good visual branding used to be a differentiator for many companies. With millennials, it is a cost of entry! 

The abstract expressionist Syd Solomon was once asked, "How do you tell the difference between a good painting and a bad painting," to which he replied, "...look at a million paintings, and then you can never be mistaken." Consider the amount of time in their lives that millennials have spent online looking at visuals, then compare that to the unconnected generations before them. Millennials have learned the difference between good and bad design through simple exposure, and they will judge your brand on its design merits.

2. You only have 8 seconds to effectively tell your brand's story to millennials. 

According to a 2015 report by the Consumers Insights Team of Microsoft, the attention span of the average person is now 8 seconds—that's 1 second less than a goldfish! Of the three basic types of communication (verbal, gestural, and graphic), the quickest is graphic. It has never been more imperative that to communicate efficaciously your brand has to do so quickly! While this is true of audiences in general, it is particularly trued of millennials who lean toward the shyer side of 8 seconds.

3. If your visual branding doesn't reinforce a millennial's personal beliefs and personal brand, then it risks contradicting them. 

With more and more being communicated visually, assumptions and beliefs about your company (though driven by the recommendation of friends and strangers) will be confirmed or contradicted by your company's visual branding. Here's the kind of question that might go through a millennial's head when they first interact with your online presence, "I've heard from others that this company is very environmentally friendly. Does it look environmentally friendly?" This kind of question works to confirm the millennial's ultimate affinity-related question, "Does this brand fit seamlessly with my personal brand?" Visual brand alignment helps to move millennials from consideration to conviction, while visual disalignment might push them altogether toward abandonment, or at least cause them to question continuing the path to purchase.

4. Millennials demand that your branding be consistent at all touchpoints and all platforms. 

Where the millennial interacts with your brand is irrelevant, regardless of the touchpoint: in-store, out-of-home, somewhere else offline, or somewhere online, regardless of device or platform. What they do expect, however, regardless of touchpoint, is a consistent brand experience!(3)

5. If your visual branding is becoming stale, then the perception is your brand, your company, its products, and its people are becoming stale too. 

While this is true of branding in general, it's particularly true for millennial audiences. The millennial's personal brand is fresh and of-the-moment, and they expect the very same thing of you. For a visually-outdated brand, there is an inherent risk that a millennial visually meeting your brand for the first time may feel like they've been catfished—metaphorically confronted with a pudgy 42-year-old male video gamer instead of the 21-year-old female goth they were expecting to see.

6. Millennials take pride and pleasure in sharing the brands they love with others. They want a brand they can wear on their sleeve as a badge of association.

If affinity is the thing that makes a brand "work," advocacy is the thing that makes a brand thrive. It's brand physics, plain and simple—fans of your brand will fuel your trajectory in a forward, positive direction. As Google/TSN/Ogilvy has so eloquently pointed out, the millennial's path to purchase is actually their "path to purpose"—they want to share your brand. In fact, three-in-four Generation C consumers (those people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection, and community) consistently share the brands they love.(4)

Is your visual branding millennial ready?

If your visual branding doesn't live up to the expectations of millennials, its not too late to do something about it. And if you get started now, you'll also be getting a jump on the centennials!

(1) Yahoo/DigitasLBi/Razorfish/Tumblr, "Content Marketing Best Practices Among Millienials," 2014

(2) Smart Insights, "Global Social Media Research Summary," 2017

(3) SDL, "Channels are Irrelevant," 2014

(4) Google/Ipsos MediaCT, YouTube Audience Study, August 2013