Recently, a new sensation has taken the world by storm in the form of a viral video song from Japan called PPAP (Pen Pineapple Apple Pen). This 51-second video garnered 65 million views on YouTube in the first 12 days, and at the time of writing this piece, it had crossed 100 million views, making the person who created it a very rich man. Is it a piece of art? Not even close. Is it communicating a message that has some value? Try again. Was it planned to become something as big as it did? I have my doubts. So what is it? Why has this video become an overnight sensation? Welcome to the world of Millennials. A world where you don’t even know what you don’t even know.
According to the definition given by William Strauss and Neil Howe in 1997, anyone born after 1982 is a Millennial and that in itself is a problem for marketers. The evolution of marketing, technology and consumer behaviour has not been linear during these 30 odd years.
In 1995, BTL activations were the new fad. In 2000, SMS marketing picked up. In 2005, content integration was the talk of the town. From 2008 onwards, social media became the buzzword and remains so, although it has gone through multiple shifts, both strategic and tactical. Now imagine someone born in 1983 and who will be 33 years old in 2016 and compare him or her to someone born in 1995 and who will be 21 years old in 2016. By definition both are Millennials. Will they react in the same way to PPAP? Or a marketing campaign similar to this song? Probably not.
Take the example of Louise Delage aka LonelyGirl15 who became an Instagram sensation in August this year. Nobody knew who she was and many assumed she was another trendy Parisian. This 25-year-old social star, who racked up over 50,000 likes in a couple of months with photos of herself attending parties, travelling, eating and always holding a drink, is actually the star of a campaign called ‘Like My Addiction’ developed by the French agency BETC Paris. The campaign was created with the help of a production company called Francine Framboise for Addict Aide and was aimed at raising awareness about alcoholism among young people.
“We were briefed on the difficulties of detecting the addiction of someone close to us; a friend, a child or a parent,” Stéphane Xiberras, President and Chief Creative Officer, BETC Paris told AdFreak.
“We thought an interesting way of showing it would be to create a person that people could easily meet every day but whom they would never suspect of being an addict, by setting up a fake Instagram account.” It was later revealed that Delage appeared in a YouTube video. Hours after the reveal, Addict Aide saw five times more traffic to its site than usual. The story generated over 140 articles and became a trending topic on Twitter in France.
BETC Paris took the KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) approach for this campaign, an approach that is used by many brands in their marketing campaign. However, the difference here was in the sequence of events. Let me explain further by going further into what is traditionally called a Brand Purchase Funnel (BPF).
BPF is used by brand managers as a tool to monitor their brand’s health. BPF helps brand managers to not only evaluate the current standing of their brand in the marketplace and in their consumer’s minds, it also helps them define their future brand strategies. BPF is founded on the AIDA principle of Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. A typical brand purchase funnel goes as shown in the illustration above.
Although there is still no right or wrong answer yet when it comes to marketing to Millennials, brands need to connect with them more innovatively. We need to move away from the old school Brand Purchase model and most importantly we need to be authentic in what we communicate. Millennials have the tools and exposure to see through an overvalued proposition.
If we go by the sequence in a BPF, it will follow top of mind awareness, consideration, trial, repurchase, loyalty and advocacy. BPF does not allow you to jump levels. A brand cannot be a MOUB (Most Often Used Brand) unless it has gone through the trial and repurchase phase. The marketing strategy is also dependent on the same linearity. If my problem as a brand is consideration, I will work on pricing or image. If my problem is repurchase or loyalty, I will work on improving loyalty or remaining competitive.
The question is whether this model is still valid for a generation who can view PPAP 100 million times and for marketers who start their campaigns with Instagram KOLs.
Millennials born before 1985 who bought cars in 2005, looked at the ad campaigns released by the auto manufacturers (Awareness), assessed the price and made a value comparison (Consideration), test drove the car (Trial), bought it and if they loved it, became loyal to the brand. Millennials born after 1993 who buy cars today, read reviews by strangers online, watch YouTube videos of those reviews (Advocacy), check the price and then consider buying it or not. Manufacturer driven advertising or awareness campaigns are still there, but are fast losing efficacy.
At the same time, some brands generate unprecedented loyalty and completely dismiss the BPF stages. Take Apple for example, a computer equipment manufacturer in the 1990s, is a lifestyle brand now. Millennials want to be seen with it. There can be hundreds of websites reviewing tablets and phones which diss the overpriced Apple products. Apple charges a premium for products with minimal upgrades and still people queue up outside their stores on the morning of any launch. Apple does not need to advertise their new iPhone. They just have to announce the release date and rest is taken care of. They have earned this place through innovation, user experience and image. The question is what model to follow when marketing to Millennials and is the BPF model still valid?
Many other marketing strategy models have been discussed at great length. David Armano, the Global Strategy Director for Edelman, has developed a ‘Purchase Spiral’ based on a community focused approach which assumes that the biggest purchase decision factor is conversation rather than marketing communications. Another alternative is Forrester’s ‘Complexity Model’ which takes into account factors such as social media to consider when to use the BPF in a Millennial context. Lastly, there is McKinsey’s Customer Decision Journey (CDJ), which proposes a purchasing loop and builds on the Forrester model. According to the CDJ model, a ‘trigger’ starts the purchasing process. A particular brand is just one among other brands under consideration and the brand can lose this consideration at any stage, even if it has been the brand of consideration for a long time. The model requires paying attention to all touch points to ensure that the brand wins the war of consideration and purchase.
Although there is still no right or wrong answer yet when it comes to marketing to Millennials, brands need to connect with them more innovatively. We need to move away from the old school BPF model and most importantly we need to be authentic in what we communicate. Millennials have the tools and exposure to see through an overvalued proposition. Unless, of course, you are Apple. In which case, you can charge a premium that other brands cannot even dream of.
Sami Qahar is a Dubai-based Pakistani looking for excuses to write. Aurora gives him a few. email@example.com