Brands want to feel the love, especially from Millennials. Among the most challenging aspects of marketing and branding efforts today is ascertaining if, and exactly how, a brand is connecting with its consumers and how healthy this attachment is for long-term consumer affection. With today's biggest focus by both agencies and media companies on Millennials, there's more need than ever to understand more about their preferences, the connectors that bind this demographic to a brand and what the long-term prospects and opportunities are for brands to more closely connect with this group.
Katerina Sudit, Managing Partner, Executive Lead at Mindshare, believes that the biggest challenge to brands today is the "commoditization of established brands," especially for Millennials, because "the importance of the brand for Millennials is paramount." She notes that it is vital for large brands to connect with the consumer, as in "what is it you are doing for them, not what it is you are selling to them. It is not just about the message," she says. "It is about the value-based engagement plan."
From agencies to media companies, it's clear that Millennials in particular must experience a brand attachment that speaks personally to them. Mary Kate Callen, Senior Director, Velocity Culture and Creative Insights, Viacom, found through her research that Millennials value authenticity and have a stronger sense of relationship. "Will brands take this to the next level of what being a person really is?" she asks. "(Millennials) have complex, dimensionalized values and that is a difficult thing for brands to nail."
How can advertisers be sure that their brands are connecting with Millennials? "We know most purchase decisions are emotionally based," says Gary Reisman, CEO of LEAP Media Investments, whose company has a patented process that tags thousands of individuals to form audiences with levels of emotional attachment to hundreds of brands and media properties to maximize advanced TV planning and buying. "That means brands with whom we have the strongest bond -- whose features and benefits, and values, resonate most with us -- will win at check out three out of four times."
The higher the emotional attachment to a brand, the less willing a consumer is to give up the brand; the greater the attention paid to messages from that brand, the greater the advocacy on social media and the higher the sales. "Every brand has its own business plan and strategic needs," notes Reisman. "LEAP has developed audiences across 25 categories that allow marketers to target consumers based on the level of emotional attachment they have to some 400 brands."
One clear winner among Millennials, according to LEAP, is Amazon, which has the greatest emotional attachment by both men and women. Other brands in the top ten include Netflix (although it is stronger among women than men), Microsoft Office and Windows, YouTube, Visa, iPhone and Apple. Differences are revealing: Women are more highly attached to Target and Facebook while men are more highly attached to Samsung.
"The marketers we work with who leverage the LEAP Enthusiasts audiences really find they're stimulating immediate sales and social sharing, which is so important in today's media marketplace," says Reisman. "They're also able to target what we call the 'Conquests audiences,' which are moderately attached to the brand but help further solidify brand attachment and gain market share."
So, in this era of fragmentation and increased competition, the advantage of a strong emotional attachment to a consumer can't be understated. Millennials, with their own unique attractions to specific brands, will be dictating the purchasing patterns and brand affiliations of the future. Smart and strategic brands will focus on emotional attachment as a way to insure future growth and loyalty among these pivotal consumers.
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