Large, well established brands tend to dominate the marketplace. With supersized advertising and marketing budgets to make sure they maintain their lofty position, most large brands will make every effort to furiously defend their market share once on top. This can make it difficult for smaller brands to find sure footing in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
However, small businesses can compete with their larger, better branded competition, and even outmaneuver and beat them by thinking younger.
Consider these two notions. One: people are not born with brand loyalty or an affinity toward companies like Apple, Toyota, Nike or Pepsi. While it’s entirely possible that friends and family have a profound effect exposing and influencing an individual towards certain brands at a young age, an individual typically cultivates their own brand loyalty later in life. When kids become teens and young adults, they want to establish their own identity, which means branding themselves. Brand loyalty begins to develop during this period in a person’s life.
Two: For previous generations, brand loyalty was primarily cultivated through TV ads or seeing those brands everywhere you went (school, the mall, bars, etc.). Today, young adults live in a digitally mobile world that offers immense potential for businesses able to acquire loyalty from the current generation of consumers. They can influence large groups of friends and family about a particular product just from clicking “share” or updating their feed. Getting the attention of younger consumers can certainly feel like a challenge, but generating brand loyalty during this period makes far more sense than trying to compete with larger brands on their terms.
To get the jump in the branding game, here are a few tips for helping your business gain the attention of these young and impressionable adults who are still looking to build their own brand identity.
Connect on their level
When I was a young adult, I had long hair, bought my clothes from vintage stores, and my conversations with friends typically revolved around and were influenced by pop culture topics like the Big Lebowski, Mr. Show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Portishead. To reach and connect with me as a brand, you had to exist at that level.
This principle still applies to young adults today. To connect with younger audiences, your brand needs to understand and relate to what they’re talking, thinking, and stressing about. Until your brand does that, your company is just more noise in an already loud digital world.
Be where the action is
Younger generations want to be social and mobile. If your brand hopes to connect with them, you must become social and mobile. While television still ranks as a powerful and widely utilized portal for advertising products, on-demand and streaming services like Netflix, Hula and Amazon Prime are phasing out TV.
New social media platforms continue to pop up every few months, and young adults still trying to establish their own identity and independence tend to move on quickly, trying to become the first among friends to find the next big thing. (Once mom and grandma joined, Facebook was destined to become only for “old people.”) Your business must stay savvy, flexible and willing to make the effort to identify and stay ahead of trends.
There’s no denying that young adults are better informed today when compared to past generations. From Twitter and Facebook to NPR and Reddit, young adults consume information and content from a wide variety of difference sources each day. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your business knows what these types of consumers want or that you can influence how they think. A better solution is to constantly engage with consumers to gain a better understanding of their evolving needs and desires, and then refine and redesign your marketing strategy as frequently as needed.
Make quality products
No matter how capably you capture the loyalty and attention of younger generations, your business still needs to make great products that provide excellent experiences. Once the quality of your products begins to dip, your loyal customers will quickly move on.
Apple, for example, has developed one the most valuable brand identities because they know how to connect with young adults looking to purchase their first computer or smart phone. However, if Apple made an inferior product compared to rivals Microsoft and Samsung, their brand would no longer hold the power it currently enjoys.
You don’t have to play on the same field in order to compete with larger brands. Many big brands become stuck with using the same ideas, habits or routines, and are slow to react to sudden swings in trends. Better prepare your business to step in when a larger brand begins to stumble and you can begin to win the loyalty of a huge market of young adults that will make your company part of their brand identity.