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What Budweiser is teaching us about marketing to millenials

Posted by Don Crow on Dec 15, 2014 10:02:39 AM


If you needed a sign of the pending apocalypse, it arrived in a November 23rd article from The Wall Street Journal: Bud Crowded out by Craft Beer Craze. Not long after, Budweiser refutted the claim they were retiring the Clyesdales, but the message was still clear to most: you're very likely doing it wrong in your marketing to millenials.

No, the venerable beer brand isn’t going anywhere. Yet. But they also aren’t going anywhere but down and out with 21 – 27 year olds and so they’ve decided to unleash Zombies and JayZ (same thing?) in future advertising. To be clear, I don’t know if Budweiser is actually going to use Zombies in advertising, the WSJ article mentions a Halloween promotion where red food coloring was added to draft Bud. It was the only way to get the grandfather of American beer on tap at a popular North Carolina bar. Now that Halloween is over, so too is the run of having Bud on tap apparently.

Let me also be clear on this, I’m not 21 – 27 years of age, and I also don’t remember the last time I drank a Budweiser or Bud Light or any of their other offerings, seasonal or otherwise.

But the point here is that a brand like Budweiser sees the hordes coming and is taking steps I see many other businesses ignoring. You can complain all you want (and then some) about Generation Y, Millennials, or whatever, but the fact is they’re large, and almost in charge. When they are finally, “in charge,” if you are not ready….well, you're going to look like the Clyesdales rode roughshod over you.

In addition to racking up $1.3 Trillion with a “T” in consumer spending, they account for most of the time spent online (duh). With a purchasing power and online habits that dwarf all but Gen X’ers, Millennials are poised to continue shaping, if not wholeheartedly reinventing market segments, brands, and most definitely advertising. And yet, I still see businesses online today who refuse to make their websites responsive, invest in smart social media sharing, or even learn from the advertising mistakes of bigger brands.

What are some things you can do to prepare for the zombie apocalypse?

1. Turn your website into something more inviting than a brochure proceeded by ‘www’
a. If you don’t already know, 76%+ of Millennials own a smartphone and one-fourth of those don’t remember the last time it wasn’t right next to them.
b. Why is that number so important? They use their smartphone for information on products, services, and yes to look up your business online and on social media.
c. And across all internet users, almost 50% say they won’t return to a website if it doesn’t load properly on their phone!
2. Stop investing in advertising and associations that aren’t social
a. A great hashtag campaign can do wonders with this crowd. Take for example, #flipflophooray which Old Navy uses successfully to sell what these consumers know are cheap and seasonable flip flops.
b. We’ve talked a lot about Red Bull on blog posts here in the past, but it bears repeating, Millennials aren’t even sure if they like the stuff, they know it’s bad for them, but the brand has become synonymous with fun, energetic events and promotions that are anything but traditional.
3. Treat your social media marketing like an authentic conversation you would have with an attention challenged friend.
a. Brevity and humor work. Get their attention quickly in a memorable way, and in a way that they’ll feel great if they share it with their friends.
b. Use caution with politically charged messages. And I don’t mean Democrat vs Republican (although that’s true too), I mean topics that will get a large base energized and complaining. This is the most open minded demographic in US history and if you offend one segment, you’ll risk the ire of several others and before you know it you’ve got a #BrandFail on your hands. If you still need it broken down for you, be cautious on getting too friendly with your opinions on men and women, marijuana, and gay marriage.

You’re seeing changes across a wide swath of markets where Millennials are making their presence felt. Look at the rise in ZipCar – because Millennials don’t favor automobile ownership the way every other generation has. Or, the fall of another major brand, McDonald’s in favor of Chipotle and healthier fare served in fast casual formats. These are only two examples that barely scratch the surface of what’s already been done, and what is right around the corner. Budweiser is but one example of how you've got to get your organization on-baord with marketing to millenials.

Or, I guess you could ignore them, I just hope you have your next business idea ready or your retirement plan is flush.

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photo credit: Gamma Man via photopin cc

Topics: social media marketing

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