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How to drive brand conversations with Gen Y? How to drive brand conversations with Gen Y?

To swiftly sift the more than 3,000 advertising messages youth is bombarded with every day, they are increasingly using their friends and immediate social circle (including parents) as a relevancy filter. Only the news, TV programs, movies, restaurants and bars, travel destinations and brands that are discussed with there friends and relatives are really worth the efforts and time to explore. For brand managers and marketers all together this implies that their brands should be part of the daily chats of their young target groups.

Our friends from the Keller Fay Group in the US found out that each Millennial on average has not less than 146 conversations a week in which he or she discusses at least one brand. Last year, InSites Consulting, executed a large study on brand related word-of-mouth for MTV Belgium. In total 1,294 Gen Yers, aged 13-29 years, participated in the study that aimed to link youth buzz to brand perception.

The top 10 most discussed product categories were:

Girls had more chats about beauty products and chocolates (!) whereas boys were more involved with discussing beer brands and spirits. Contrary to the popular belief that buzz for Gen Y equals social media or mobile calls or texting, only 9% of these conversations took place online and 3% by phone compared to a massive share of 86% face-to-face talks. On average each conversation contained 2.4 different brands, and this amount of mentions was not significantlty differing between the two genders.

When studying the brands that received the highest amount of mentions, it seemed that the top 3 had all been actively advertising during the field time of the survey. Three of the top five most talked about brands were also perceived by Millennials as the coolest ones within their category.

Only 10% of all reported chats on brands actually had a negative tone, 50% was completely positive and 40% was balanced. Gen Yers were the most positive about chocolate brands, beauty care products and salty snacks. The most negative discussions were related to mobile operators, energy drinks and banks. So the latter should think about monitoring Millennials’ conversations, learn about the opportunities and act upon them. The former on the other hand can build on the positive word-of-mouth by facilitating and joining existing conversations both on- and offline.

Conversations about your brands can really change consumer behaviour. 61% of the polled Millennials admitted the brand chat had affected the way they or their friends felt about brands. For 8% it raised proper awareness since it was the first time they heard about the brand, 12% changed his/her own opinion about a mentioned brand, 15% felt incited to use a brand for the first time and 7% got convinced not to use a certain brand any longer. Gen Yers also claimed their chat had a big impact on others, with 6 out of 10 stating that their friends had changed their opinion or behaviour regarding the brands they had been discussing.

Almost half of all conversations about brands were initiated by a certain brand or shopping experience. Within the other half of conversation starters, the majority (41%) was related to TV content like you can see in the next graph.

27% of these conversations were based on a TV commercial and 14% on a TV program in which a certain brand was featured. The big share of TV illustrates how this medium is still the best in stimulating storytelling among peers. The other conversation starters were: the internet (19%), billboards (13%), print ads (11%), events (7%), cinema ads (5%) and radio commercials (5%).

In the InSites Consulting study, we also mapped 15 different consumer categories on the amount of conversations as well as the impact the word-of-mouth has on Gen Y’s behaviour towards the brands.

Some do’s and don’ts for driving brand conversations in each of these four situations can be singled out:

  1. High Buzz, Low Impact. In this situation brands should find out the reason behind this lack of impact. Perhaps the current conversations are all taking place in a small in-crowd. In that case the marketer’s challenge is to get out of this box and break out of the in-crowd by launching non-disputable content that surpasses the usual discourse. Or perhaps the brand’s personality is too distant from its audience. If research shows this is the case, than emotional levels and en-user involvement should be goals of a conversational campaign. A good example, which we described in our book, is the Coca Cola Expedition 206, locally engaging students in the 206 countries where the brand is sold.
  2. Low Buzz, Low Impact. There’s too little compelling stories coming from your brand if you are in this situation ! Add disputabele buzzworthy cool content to fire up the conversations but keep sure you do’nt outshine the brand. Conversations should always be about the product, the packaging, the positioning, the unique DNA of the brand, not just about the stunt. In our book we describe the Doritos late night concerts for which you needed a package of chips to unlock the exclusive augmented reality gig of Blink 182.
  3. Low Buzz, High Impact. In this case it’s important to observe the buzz since often the talks are about critical incidents or bad experiences. Observing and facilitating these complaints through social and face-to-face media can relieve the pressure involved with incidents and help to re-balance conversations about your company or brand. Some of the categories in this situation are just nog buzz worthy enough for the stimulation junkie generation Y. Making the category and/or your brand cooler will certainly increase the buzz. In our book you can find the Procter & Gamble case study for the Braun CruZer grooming tool for boys, a category that isn’t considered to be the most fascinating one. A branded content program called ‘King of Snow’ challenging Gen Yers to become a snowboard champ (coached by real champions) actually made both the brand and industry more cool which in the end led to a substantial increase in word-of-mouth, market share and sales volume.
  4. High Buzz, High Impact. Of course when your categroy is on this side of the mapping it means there’s a lot of conversations going on about your brand and your competitors all the time. So, of course it’s clear you should be on top of the buzz, observing it, feeding talks with interesting content and even joining the conversation by allowing the empowered and entitled Gen Y to co-create your brand’s marketing and your product’s appearance and performance. Customer communities, such as the ones InSites is doing for AB InBev, Ben & Jerry’s and many other clients are really helpful here.

Ending with this little commercial note, I do hope you’ve picked up something from this post and in case you are really interested in brand conversations, you should check out my fellow managing partner’s Steven Van Belleghem’s blog and book as well.

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