It’s no secret that many FMCG brands have pinned millennials as their primary target market and geared their product and marketing accordingly. It certainly makes sense, numbers-wise. Now the largest demographic in Australia, comprising around 8.3 million people, millennials account for every 1 in 3 consumer dollars spent, across major FMCG categories like groceries, beverages, and personal care products. So in other words, they buy… a lot. But what they want to buy, or should we say who they want to buy it from, has changed dramatically in recent years. If you’re still using a brand strategy that was created in the past, you might be missing the mark – and it could explain why you’ve lost this key audience’s attention and all-important dollars.
Determined as the generation born between 1981 – 1996, millennials are no longer the young kids on the block. Aged between 26 and 41, they’re now fully-fledged adults with professional careers juggling social and family lives, demanding jobs, financial stress, and potentially examining their purpose and place in the world. Many in this generation also now have children of their own, meaning they’re doing double duty in the shopping department, as the decision maker for young children. This makes it doubly important to appeal to them, and for your brand to resonate with them. Clearly, they hold major purchasing power. And with great power comes… great expectations.
Let’s examine what’s influencing millennial purchasing decisions when it comes to FMCG in 2022.
When the term millennial first become part of the zeitgeist 10 or so years ago, it was often used as an insult. Millennials were seen as the high-maintenance generation that only cared about themselves, and were maligned for complaining too often about trivial things because they had it ‘so easy’. Putting aside whether these beliefs held any truth back then, one thing for certain is that they don’t anymore. This generation has grown up, and as a result, the millennial mindset has well and truly shifted. Not only do they have new priorities that match their different life stage, but the world has also changed rapidly, leading them to reexamine their values and what’s important. They now see the collective benefit as the goal. As coined by author Eric Greenberg, ‘Generation Me’ has evolved into ‘Generation We’.
So how does this translate across to their shopping decisions, and how does it affect the way brands need to act in order to win them over?
What’s important to millennials
Expectations for brands have skyrocketed. As millennials have become more actively engaged with the world, they’ve developed strongly held beliefs and commitments surrounding social justice, politics, systemic issues and sustainability. Sharing the same values as those they support is critical to them – and this often means they now care more about what a brand stands for, rather than what it is selling.
But before you go quickly slapping on a new slogan to appease the masses, be warned. They can see right through brands that are just jumping on a bandwagon, and will be swift to voice their disapproval. As some of the biggest drivers of ‘cancel culture’, they won’t hesitate to punish brands who transgress. Look at Pepsi’s bungled 2017 campaign, for example. A misguided attempt to make a comment on the divisive political climate by way of Kendall Jenner offering a conciliatory can of Pepsi to a policeman guarding protesters at a rally was met with instant backlash. Even though Pepsi pulled the campaign and issued a sheepish apology after just one day, they still hit their lowest consumer perception levels in almost 10 years in the months afterwards. Clearly, if you’re not on the same wavelength as your audience, taking a misstep with your messaging has the potential to cause a pretty mighty fall from grace. The dip in popularity was nothing to do with the product, the packaging or the quality – people were turned off purely because they felt betrayed by the brand. Trust was broken. This drives home the challenge FMCG brands today face as consumers, millennials in particular, demand they have deeper messaging and are more vocal about their values – but only if it is done in a pure and authentic way that feels true to the brand, and doesn’t come out of left field.
According to a 2021 Deloitte survey, the societal issue millennials currently care most about is climate change. There’s now a firm expectation that brands are transparent about what they’re doing to minimise environmental damage, and millennials are willing to pay more and potentially sacrifice a bit of convenience if it means having a more eco-friendly product. Having grown up with talk of recycling from a young age, there is a notion ingrained in millennials that their actions have the potential to help or harm, and they feel a great personal responsibility to ‘do good’. Brands that allow them to feel like they are contributing positively to environmental issues, even in a small way, will gain their trust and loyalty.
Where does your brand stand with millennials?
For all that we’ve said about millennials embracing a new appreciation for the common good, they still deeply desire to be communicated to on a personal level. In these important and often stressful years of their lives, they want to feel understood and nurtured and like their needs can be met. To truly connect with this generation, you need to uncover the emotional ‘gap’ you can fill – what is the human truth behind your product’s role in their life?
Millennials are incredibly savvy, so you must assume they are doing their research, both online and in-store, and making mental notes on which brands they resonate with. This means you need to be ultra clear about your values, what you stand for, and the story you are telling across all touchpoints, through look, feel and voice.
Do you know how millennials currently feel about your FMCG brand? When was the last time you took a step back to look at your branding and consider if it still portrayed you the way you wish to be perceived? If your current brand strategy is no longer hitting the mark for millennials, it may be time to think about a reinvention. Engaging in a brand refresh allows you to re-meet your target audience – to get to know them with fresh eyes, and drill down deep to determine how best to position yourself to win their hearts and minds. Without even changing your product, you could truly change the popularity of your brand.
Are you curious about how your brand is being perceived, or have a sneaking suspicion you might be coming across differently than you intend? It could help to have a fresh set of eyes take a look. We’re a Melbourne-based branding agency specialising in all things FMCG, and we’re currently offering a no-obligation brand evaluation. Just fill out this quick form, then we’ll do some homework and come back to you with our thoughts on how your brand is presenting itself to the market. Chat soon!