Target recently announced it is changing two of its main brands to appeal to the preferences of Millennials.
So what? (You’re probably thinking.)
This move is more than just about a vendor change. It’s representative of how brands and “doing business” needs to evolve IF organizations (and that includes associations) want Millennials to care.
Gone are the days of “build it and they will come. ” Instead, it’s the era of building what makes sense to the consumer and mapping back to an organization’s mission – even if it means disrupting how marketing, operations and leadership has done it in the past.
It’s the era of customer relationships as a strategic differentiator.
Here is part of what Target announced:
"Our new brands are all about the changing face of our guests -- what they need, what they’re looking for from Target. When we took a close look at our existing assortment with this in mind, we saw a disconnect. We knew we’d need to refresh our offerings--and define new ones—so our guests continue to love what they’re discovering at Target and want to keep coming back, again and again."
This statement is rich with insight with at least two top takeaways:
1. Brands (organizations, associations) must ACTIVELY listen, align with, and take action based on what their customers want.
Certainly, business has always been about managing supply and creating demand. But what’s new in this Millennial and mobile era is the customer truly is a partner in development and marketing process. What they want, how they want “it”, and the way they want to find “it” is how organizations need to realign their assets and how they operate.
And they are a diverse generation so this isn’t as straightforward as one might think. Creating an App, a cool looking website, and/or posting content on social platforms that is based on what an organization thinks is important is the worst thing a brand can do in the digital realm. This type of self-promotion and self-centric content is waste of time and money. It also turns off Millennials and GenZers, who expect the focus to be on their desires. Period.
Doing anything otherwise is the equivalent to putting lipstick on a pig and the fastest way to hurt a brand.
This shift sounds subtle and easy to implement via marketing and advertising. But, it requires so much more than that. Just look at what Target is doing:
Successful implementation requires a level of disruption, or innovation, within Target Corporate, but this move of many shows the executives behind the brand understand that doing what has always been done won’t work in the future.
This cannot be emphasized enough. Millennials MUST see themselves in the brand and know they and their values are core to the businesses they support, and not the other way around.
Target’s announcement reinforces this:
“But it’s not just about creating a great product assortment—it’s how we bring the brand to life for our guests in stores, digitally and in our marketing, so that at every touchpoint, our guests understand that this brand’s not just new—it’s created especially for them.”
This leads us to our second takeaway…
2. Answers how best to leverage mobile technologies, social media and Millennials/GenZers are ever-present and easy to find if building an ongoing, active relationship with them is a priority.
By listening and engaging constantly, not just once a year or whenever a research study can be funded, both critical insights are uncovered and trust is built.
These days, CRM (customer relationship management) capabilities are commonly integrated into social media tools and as part of bigger database tools, such as Salesforce. As a result, there's no reason the pulse of consumer preferences and opinions is costly to obtain. With the digital nature of these tools and desire of younger generations interest to be an influencer with their social networks, there is significant opportunity to integrate them strategically into the traditional R&D process.
As a result, targeting Millennials and GenZers requires a new mentality, responsiveness, internal alignment of resources and decision-making process, as well as expanding the type of skills on marketing/communication teams. It also demands MarCom being a strategic asset with a strong voice at the executive roundtable, if not already.
Unfortunately, many organizations try to cut corners in ways that diminish their full potential. For example, many organizations assume being on every social platform (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, LinkedIn) is a good approach. It's not and communicates a lack of sophistication to our youngest generations.
network of people will self-populate and run itself if they build a design-savvy “community center” and offering online. Not so.
Others will go so far as to invest in game-like features and cool incentives (e.g., lunch with a celebrity or discounts to popular stores), but stop short of investing in the needed community managers and content developers that will keep an active ear to the ground and keep the relationship(s) going. You know, that “front-line” feedback where real-time innovation is possible that also builds loyalty and trust with these younger generations.
Sure, we all have to draw the financial line somewhere, as most of us don’t have the budgets Target has at its dispense. But, Target didn’t start out that way. We all have to start somewhere and if going digital (mobile, App, social media) or going after the younger generations is a priority, then it is imperative to do it right… or not at all.
Mobile and digital are no longer tactics and additional communication channels to spread the word about all the great things an organization or brand is doing. Not to Millennials anyway. This is their entire social connect point so brands that speak AT them, advertise and are angling for a transaction will be shut out.
Brands, however, that listen, adapt, offer, and grow as a result of building a relationship with Millennials and GenZers will find the key to opening the floodgates.
Of course, the type of innovation this requires within an organization is nothing at which to sneeze. Yet, “going digital” means new levels of value add, authenticity, transparency and engagement so that the customer is knows their interests are at the heart of a brand they support. Only then will mobile and social efforts flourish to the degree possible.
This is the Gokotta Group's blog.
It is the place for us to make note of changing times, new ways of thinking, and provide examples of how greater impact is being created. It's also a spot we can focus on people. And, occasionally, showcase the type of projects the Gokotta team supports (see "Case Studies" below).