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Brands Appealing to Millennials and Gen Z

Targeting younger consumers never drops on the priority list for brands—and with good reason. In 2020, the combined spending power of millennials and Gen Z shoppers reached a whopping $3 trillion while the youngest members of these cohorts continue to influence household purchasing decisions. Here are some of the latest approaches marketers are using to reach both important demographics.

Tapping into Trends
The pandemic led to numerous workplace changes, among them the decision made by hordes of young professionals to leave work altogether. Known as the Great Resignation, it saw four million people quit their jobs in July 2021 alone for reasons including burnout and a desire for better work-life balance. Anheuser-Busch’s Estrella Jalisco Mexican beer brand is tapping into that phenomenon with a new campaign called “Viva Tu Estrella,” which encourages first-generation Mexican-Americans and other young consumers to live their best lives. As part of the campaign, Estrella Jalisco is hosting a contest with a $100,000 prize, which would allow the winner to quit their job and pursue their passion. This is demonstrated, for example, in the trio of six-, 15- and 30-second spots in both Spanish and English where an aspiring chef asserts their authentic passions, in the hopes of empowering others to pursue their true professional goals.

Travel is picking back up as pandemic restrictions ease and workers between jobs take advantage of free time. Millennials who have more wanderlust than previous generations, are also making room for travel in their budget. Italian beer brand Peroni, owned by Molson Coors, is capitalizing on that uptick with its first television campaign in two years. A 30-second spot, called “Live Every Moment,” shows a group of young people drinking and being merry in Positano, an idyllic cliffside town on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Accompanying activations, like the chance to win $20,000 toward an Italian holiday, serve to further pique the travel bug of millennial consumers.

Social’s Staying Power
Social sites continue to wield power when it comes to winning the favor of millennials and Gen Z shoppers. As such, Denny’s recently paired with TikTok influencers to introduce its new brand platform, “Open for Anything.” The aim is to celebrate the restaurant’s long history of being open 24/7 while simultaneously attracting new generations by creating a future-facing environment that’s welcoming for all customers. A hero spot showcases diverse diners enjoying some original menu items—like “Get That Cookie Dough Pancakes” and a new “Jala-Bac Burger”—which are concurrently being promoted on TikTok by content stars including Jenny Solares and the Enky Boys, Jonathan Chaves and Elise Osafo.

TikTok is likewise proving essential to the success of Gen Z entrepreneurs Sabrina Sadeghian and Jade Beguelin, founders of 4AM Skin. The new skincare company aims to fix damage done to skin by indulging in guilty pleasures like drinking alcohol or staying up all night—no judgment included. On TikTok, the company’s content garnered over 1.5 million views plus the attention of celebrities like Heidi Klum and Cardi B. After grossing $10,000 in sales in the first month, the brand is expected to hit a six-figure profit by summer. “Especially with TikTok, it seems easier than ever to go viral by telling a story that people resonate with,” said Beguelin. “Most of our community has been built through Instagram and TikTok.”

Volvo recently turned to Twitter to promote its new electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles by posting 26 videos—one for each letter of the alphabet—in which Generation Alpha kids explain a different feature or benefit of EV cars. The letter Z, for example, talks about zero emissions, while O espouses the wonders of one-pedal driving.

“A lot of the questions that we are having our younger generation answer right now is anything around range anxiety that people have, and how far you’re actually able to travel on electric,” said Allison Lane, Volvo brand marketing manager. This campaign coincides with the skyrocketing popularity of electric cars; 657,000 were sold in the US last year, and even more can now be found on roads in Germany, China, the UK and other countries.

Wining and Dining
Whiskey is among the alcohol options favored by millennials, who especially embrace bourbon as a vehicle for imbibing specialty craft cocktails. The American whiskey market is currently valued at $4.9 billion, and much of that growth can be attributed to this demographic of drinkers, who accelerated sales by 5.3 percent between 2017 and 2022. TX Whiskey, owned by Pernod Ricard, is playing into that preference with six new spots starring actor Scoot McNairy (of Narcos fame). The ads which were shot at TX Whiskey’s distillery, Whiskey Ranch, lean into the brand’s uniquely rugged Texan feel while running across a range of digital platforms and social channels.

From spirits to cereal, teens and young adults brought back the breakfast food during pandemic lockdowns as a menu item that can be enjoyed any time of day. In January, General Mills’ Cinnamon Toast Crunch introduced its limited-edition Cinnamoji offering that features emoji faces on bite-sized graham cracker squares. Partnerships with NFL wide receiver Justin Jefferson and Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim further fueled love among Gen Z members. Trix, also from General Mills, played into millennials’ love of 1980s nostalgia by partnering with Mario Lopez from Saved by the Bell to promote their sweet offering.

Brands recognize the ongoing importance of marketing to younger, savvy demographics. Connecting with current trends, meeting them on the platforms where they spend time and appealing to their consumption and cultural preferences are good ways to continue attracting the attention of these two generational cohorts that are shaping our future.