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Opinion and Insight
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4 Ways Design Can Help Brands Stand Out to Millennials

Southpaw, 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Glenn Smith, Creative Director at Southpaw, on how to appeal to millennials so they grab more products from the shelves

4 Ways Design Can Help Brands Stand Out to Millennials

Millennials are harder to pin down than any generation that’s gone before, with many a column inch devoted to figuring out what they really want and need. As these discerning consumers get older they could be the difference between success and failure for today’s category leaders. Our Fading Brands 2016 report found that younger shoppers seem more invested in packaging design than a product’s brand values. This surprising trend might stem from the fact that they believe many brands - the likes of Cadbury, Heinz and Birds Eye - don’t directly target them.

Brands spend millions making sure they remain relevant through their packaging. Whether that is hitting the spot for Millennials has been cast into doubt by the survey. But the fact remains this is a hugely shrewd and influential audience. Below are four key ways in which brands can appeal to Millennials so they grab more products from the shelves:

Provoke instant recall

The average in-store decision-making process takes 13 seconds, so packaging plays a vital role. People don’t recall ads at fixture, they subconsciously scan their memory for something familiar - we call this ‘mental availability’. So what appears on pack needs to be both eye-catching and imbued with the qualities and messaging of the parent brand.

Kit-Kat is a great example of this. The ‘Have a Break’ campaign has been running since 1958 and still manages to stay fresh. The reason for this is the unmistakable link between the brand message and the user’s experience of the product. That’s mental availability in its finest form.

Demonstrate value beyond price

Millennials are obsessed with finding value. They live in a world where content and experiences are handed to them for free – or at least on a Groupon-funded plate. Of course, price will always be a core driver to purchase but it’s not the best way to create brand loyalty or advocacy. Successful brands understand how perishables like a packet of crisps or a chocolate bar can have an impact on the purchaser’s social life as well. AR and VR have been used to great effect here, delivering entertaining content and allowing consumers to play online games or even enter competitions while they enjoy their product. Fundamentally, packaging can be more than an aide memoire, instead it’s an opportunity for brands to add real value to the overall brand experience.

Forge an emotional connection

When it comes to FMCG brands consumers typically hunt by means of habit and instinct. Millennials, however, are still forging those long-lasting brand connections and place strong value on discovery. So this is a great opportunity for brands to influence them with meaningful and shareable experiences. Packaging, in this sense, should be looked at as the final piece of media space in the consumer journey. A great example of this is Coca-Cola’s personalised bottles. Simply asking people to share photos with friends and family instantly got people buying, sharing and keeping the product. Such a simple idea, but one that helped build huge loyalty.

Tell the brand’s story

All media, from packaging to advertising to a website should be seen as a page in the brand’s storybook. This is why so many Millennials disassociate advertising with their purchase activity: because brands stop the storytelling when they reach the packaging.

When we created the Charlie Wells beer brand, we used the packaging as the storytelling vehicle and worked backwards from there. The introduction of the Charlie Wells character created instant intrigue and a sense of discovery at the point of sale. We then used ambient media to connect the rest of the brand story together. This has had a strong impact among Millennial beer fans, who now think of the brand more as a personality rather than just another craft ale on the shelves.

What our survey found about Millennials and packaging may have been just a shiny pebble among other golden nuggets. But it revealed a key challenge of our age, and one which will only grow in importance as competition for shelf space increases.



Glenn Smith is Creative Director at Southpaw