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Brief Published: 5 Mar 2014

How Cool Brands Stay Hot: Branding to Gen Y


Joeri Van den Bergh, co-founder of global research company InSite Consulting, presents the key strategies for marketing to millennials from his latest book, How Cool Brands Stay Hot. Here are our key takeaways. 

  • Stimulation Junkies: Millennials are obsessed with stimulation, excitement, learning and new experiences. According to Van den Bergh, brands should be relying less on social media, and focusing more on making their product more social to engage them. US soft drinks giant Coca-Cola’s marketing efforts for Coke Zero in association with the latest James Bond movie release Sky Fall is a good example.

    Coke Zero’s Unlock the 007 in You saw commuters in Antwerp’s Central Station race against a clock to win tickets to see the film. A Bond-themed assault course provided the challenge, while the experience drew the brand closer to the consumer. For more on how to engage consumers through wonder and excitement, read Digital Wonder and Science & The New Consumer Curiosity.
  • Family Values: According to Van den Bergh’s research, Gen Y consumers list their friends, mothers, and fathers as their top three icons respectively. Data collected from their bucket lists also reveals that becoming parents and getting married are more important to them than job satisfaction or economic security. These traditional values might be surprising, but they speak to the millennial desire for real relationships and intimacy. We will be exploring this further in the next Stylus Macro Trend, Modern Families, so keep an eye out for it.
  • Honesty & Authenticity: These two factors are extremely important to millennials, who relate them to the trust they feel with their friends. One of the reasons US pop star Lady Gaga is also high on the idols list is because she treats her fans like friends and is open with them. For brands, the lesson is to be open about your work; don’t hide your faults, but focus on your strengths.

    “Millennials appreciate when brands admit they aren’t perfect – but they’re working on it,” confirmed Van den Bergh. The campaign for Italian fashion brand Diesel’s relaunch of a 1993 shoe design tackles this well. The YUK initiative focused on the heritage of the shoe, and mocks the connectivity of its competitors Nike and Adidas’ latest designs. Fans were invited to disconnect from social media in celebration of the launch.

For more Stylus coverage of Gen Y and millennials, see The Millennial Consumer, Millennials: The Next Normal, The Millennials Come of Age, Connecting With Millennials, and The Cult of Youth.