Natural consumers continue to morph. While natural product manufacturers have traditionally targeted Baby Boomers, new natural consumer market segments are emerging. Of particular interest are the millennials, the generation of more than 50 million people who span the ages of 18 to 32.
For natural product manufacturers, millennials represent a less-saturated market. These consumers expect to receive information and make decisions in their own unique way. The ability to understand the priorities, worldview and decision-making processes of millennials can provide savvy industry marketers with one of the most genuine competitive advantages available.
Here are 10 ways to reach them, and 4 product categories they're naturally attracted to.
Marketing to millennials
Natural isn’t enough.
For millennials, the term “natural” has a stronger pull if it intersects with other attributes, such as local, fresh, sustainable, safe, green, and additive-free. In a study conducted by the Harman Group, “Beyond Organic and Natural 2010,” millennials mentally group many of these attributes into a mega-attribute most closely captured by the term “authentic.” For millennials, an authentic brand:
- Sources locally
- Values freshness
- Makes sure food is safe to eat
- Incorporates green sustainability practices and technologies
- Helps enable and facilitate their preferred active lifestyle
Niche brand loyalty.
A lot has been said about how millennials are “brand-averse.” While it’s true that millennials often reject colossal brands, this generation has proven itself loyal to niche brands. This trend operates in tandem with millennials’ desire for authentic products. Niche brands convey the promise of hand-made, artisanal quality, made from locally sourced ingredients and with sustainable manufacturing practices. Natural product brands like finished product brand MegaFood, whose whole food multi-vitamins are hand-crafted and sourced primarily from produce grown on local farms, are primed to capture the attention of millennials moving forward.
Make it traceable.
One of the most noticeable changes in how high-tech, socially connected millennials interact with brands is their desire to trace products back to their source. Cyvex Nutrition, for example, promotes the traceability of its OmegaActiv ingredient. Because Cyvex’ parent company OmegaProtein, owns the fishing vessels, as well as the manufacturing and packaging plants, buyers can track a product through its lot number and receive information on third party safety and quality testing. This gives manufacturers that include OmegaActiv in their products something extra to interest millennial consumers. More and more consumer food brands are beginning to utilize consumer marks, like HarvestMark, to deliver easy trace back to buyers and to help consumers learn more about the products they buy.
Drugs are OK.
Unlike Baby Boomers, millennials do not generally shy away from OTC or prescription drugs, and they have no problem mixing natural with pharma. This generation grew up with recreational Viagra, crammed for tests aided by Vyvance and Adderall, and fueled themselves on energy drinks. Natural product manufacturers might want to consider packaging that leans towards the pharmaceutical rather than the natural end of the spectrum. Capsules with a pharmaceutical seal, visible through a reveal, are more of an enticement for millennials than they would be for Boomers.
Tell them a story.
Millennials are socially minded story tellers. The definitive report on millennials by the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit public opinion research group, emphasizes that this generation lives in a socially interconnected world. The paper entitled “The Millennials: Confident, Connected, Open to change,” reports that 75 percent of millennials have embraced social networking and desire ongoing dialogues through social media channels. Use this tendency. Spread your message through social media channels by telling your brand story through a video, 3-D animation, mobile app or cartoon. And make certain you make it easy to share articles, posts and visuals with Facebook and Twitter “Share” buttons.
Go grass roots.
Because millennials are so well-connected, grass roots movements, like the recent Occupy Wall Street, can spread rapidly and effectively. To get millennials interested, however, your brand needs to feel “genuine.” A good example of a brand that touts its grassroots, anti-corporate genuine attitude is Patagonia. For more influence with millennials, borrow any one of these strategies from Patagonia’s playbook:
- Fund innovative groups who are overlooked or rejected by corporate donors.
- Work with groups pushing for new environmental and safety standards, like Bluesign, a technology standard that reduces resource consumption and harm from dyes and finishes.
- Rigorously police waste.
- Join or co-found an alliance, like The Conservation Alliance, a group that encourages companies to give money to environmental organizations and to become more involved in environmental work.
Try out a Limited Edition.
As millennials steer clear of big brand bland, they turn instead towards smaller brands and products with limited edition life cycles. While this is great news for small start-up brands, companies small and large can include marketing strategies whose goals are cyclical in nature. For example, marketers of functional beverages might do well to follow Mountain Dew’s lead: give millennials limited-edition flavors, let them vote on their favorites, then deliver on the chosen one. Functional foods marketers could follow Doritos’ example and offer limited edition mystery flavors like Doritos’ Thai chili and Kaffir lime. Jones Soda is a brand that has built a franchise appealing to the “limited edition” mentality of millennials, featuring flavors like Mashed Potatoes and Gravy.
Skin your brand.
Millennials don’t like to be interrupted by ads when having a conversation with their pals. So how do marketers send a branded message without intruding? One way is to skin the brand. A great example of skinning is the online music site Pandora.com. Pandora allows listeners to continue listening to their music relatively uninterrupted while displaying the “skin” of the brand as the background of the page. Whenever a user interacts with the site (to click a thumbs-up or thumbs-down or change the station), the background changes and a new brand skin is displayed. When marketing to millennials, find ways to represent your brand that don’t interfere with the consumer’s primary sensory experience.
Make them feel good.
Lastly, keep the emotions of millennials in mind. In their book, How Cool Brands Stay Hot: Branding to Generation Y, Van den Bergh and Behrer claim that “happiness seems to be the emotion that has the largest impact on brand leverage” for millennials. Whether or not this influenced Coke’s “Open Happiness” campaign can be debated, but millennials’ desire to feel good and connect with brands emotionally are two of the generation’s defining characteristics. Regardless of whether your product is for joint health, brain health or some other condition, find a way for your brand experience to evoke positive emotions.
Millennials have a different set of priorities, connect and communicate in different ways, use different decision processes and make different choices than Baby Boomers. As a result, a campaign or brand targeting millennials needs to revamp every aspect of its marketing strategy to speak to and attract millennials. Just running a Boomer ad in millennials’ publications or launching a Boomer-directed brand on Facebook and Twitter will most likely not yield positive results. When targeting millennials, give them their own packaging, their own campaigns (preferably grass-roots), their own contests and their own causes, and they’ll show you just how brand loyal they can be.
Jeff Hilton is co-founder of Integrated Marketing Group and has helped take the industry from buying a full-page ad here or there to the complex, integrated marketing strategies of today. Since the 1980s he has helped launch and revitalize brands promoting health and wellness.