Consumers choose brands to develop, extend or portray their self-identity. For adolescents who are still in the process of constructing their identity, this is even more prevalent than for other age groups. Brands, styles and products deliver tangible ways of meaning transference and are chosen to reflect the values, interests and opinions. Over the past weeks I already introduced the first components of our CRUSH Branding Model (Coolness, Realness & Uniqueness). Today we dive into youth’s self-identification with the brand, as it is crucial to obtain a good connection with Generation Y to keep a cool brand hot for the long term.
For this generation of consumers, image advertising and the old-fashioned way of shouting brand personality through mass media is no longer doing the trick. Brands need a strong point of view and act upon these values to convince the marketing-savvy generation that it’s not just a gimmick or campaign but truly a part of the brand’s DNA. Brands that strongly advocate certain values which are in line with your own, will enhance identification. Nike, for instance, is all about personal achievement, competition and success with a “yes you can do it” mentality. The brand was created by athletes and is still devoted to the athlete community and spirit.
However, if the values of a brand go against your own, it will easily turn into a “hate brand”. Think of BP after the oil spill disaster or Roger David clothes being boycotted after it had launched a T-shirt line “promoting” rape.
Since Generation Y’ers are on the urge to achieve something in their young lives, aspirational brands which radiate positive energy will be easier to identify with. “Apple is smart and creative, just like me” said one of our more humble community participants. There are three levels of aspired identification, a brand can use to connect with youth:
- “I want to express myself and my style”: brands that are representing certain lifestyles like for instance Billabong or Roxy for surfers
- “I want to do something better”: brands that help youngsters to actively experience their passions, like Gatorade, offering pre-workout and post-workout electrolyte hydration formulas are helping them to engage with sports
- “I want to make the world a better place”: brands that are change agents in their market like fair trade brands, Bodyshop or Lush are reflecting the concerns of certain parts of the youth population