Editor’s Note: Wharton’s Americus Reed and Erik Gordon of the University of Michigan discuss reviving old brands for Millennials and Gen Z.
Brand loyalty used to be something companies could rely on to grow and retain their customer base. It was driven in part by cool commercials on network TV and catchy jingles that consumers couldn’t get out of their heads. But younger people, specifically millennials and the Gen Z cohort, aren’t looking at the same media or ads that their parents did. Companies that were popular in past generations are quickly discovering that they need new strategies if they want their brand to appeal to the next generation of shoppers who can easily click and choose from millions of products from around the globe.
The following are three key points from their conversation.
Repackage, Revitalize, Rebrand – Professor Americus Reed said re-branding is always a double-edged sword. When done well, it can reap untold rewards in customer loyalty. But it’s tricky. “The better that you’re able to create a very strong, clear image to people means that you have the likelihood of really connecting with them. However, changing that is very hard because now you’re asking them to believe something different that they have not believed, necessarily, for a very long time. That’s a hard proposition, but all great companies have to do that.”
Taking Up Space – Another challenge with rebranding is the ability for a product to take up mental space in the heads of consumers. “A younger consumer is like, ‘I don’t have any of that in my brain. What now? If you’re going to tell me soup, I may not even believe that soup should be in a can.’ Now, you have a big problem,” Reed said.
But there is a way brands can push a modern mindset shift: social media. With the right kind of messaging, a brand can gain street credibility with younger audiences. Authenticity is key, however.
Stop, Collaborate, and Listen – The professor said marketers need to pay closer attention to what’s important to younger consumers and pivot accordingly. That means listening and adapting rather than dictating trends and hoping they catch on.
Reed said if companies want to connect with next-generation consumers, they must respect their role as brand collaborators.
“Contrast it to the ‘Mad Men’ days, where folks ran focus groups and they brought people in for an afternoon and talked to them and debated about stuff, and they thought they understood the customers. Now, we have this endless, 24/7 focus group. To get the people to co-create things with us and to co-own it with us, that’s wonderful. That’s how you create something that’s really powerful and really enduring.”