CPG brands sometimes struggle to reach and engage millennials, a generation that grew up with technology in elementary, middle, and high school and feel very comfortable with multiple devices and the newest digital trends. Millennials rely on digital in their everyday life—from the alarm on their smartphone in the morning, to social media for a fun and healthy dinner recipe. This represents a huge opportunity for CPG brands to reach this crowd. Unfortunately, millennials are bombarded with messaging from brands every day.

So how do CPG brands reach and connect with millennials?

1.  Be where they are​. 

This may seem obvious, but millennials are busy, and it’s key that brands catch them at the right time and in the right place. This place, of course, is online. Over the years, millennials have shifted many of their offline actions online: today, 94% of millennial consumers actively bank online, and 54% of millennials’ total shopping purchases are online.

Many brands are already making an investment in digital media to reach this valuable audience. In fact, digital ad spending will surpass TV ad spending in 2017. As more and more budgets shift from traditional media to digital, it’s critical for CPG brands to find ways to stand out. Takeovers and custom sponsorships are an effective way to build a presence for a brand on a site that already reaches the brand’s target audience.

For example, we’ve seen the shift from paper to digital for party planning. The number of parties planned online is expected to grow a rate of 12% each year, and tech-savvy millennials—who value the convenience, savings, and environmentally-friendly aspect associated with online invitations—are a huge part of this growing trend. Punchbowl helps CPG brands reach this audience at the exact moment when millennials have a need for their product. Imagine the power in being able to reach millennial moms when you KNOW that they have a party to plan. With a sponsorship program, you have multiple touch points to cultivate a relationship, provide offers, and convey your brand value proposition.  

With millennials, it’s rare to be offline for too long. The time millennials spend participating in online activities and tasks is significant, and this opens many doors for CPG brands to reach this generation.

2. ​ Use nostalgia marketing.

Millennials came of age during a recession, when jobs were difficult to come by and many found themselves stuck with significant college loans. It makes sense then that this generation loves to reminisce about their early years, before they hit a tough job market and had to pay off student debt. CPG brands can tap into this longing for the days of long ago through nostalgia marketing. Brands can align their products with the happy times millennials romanticize about by creating opportunities for them to share their memories of old TV shows, movies, and fashion trends. They can also bring back iconic products from years past like Pepsi did recently.

Last year, Pepsi relaunched Crystal Pepsi, which was a popular beverage for millennials in the ‘90s. To accompany the launch, the company also released “The Crystal Pepsi Trail” online, a remake of the popular ‘90s computer game “The Oregon Trail,” and encouraged fans to join the #crystalpepsi conversation. This nostalgia campaign not only reminded millennials of the good old days, it no doubt strengthened their connection to the Pepsi brand.

3.  Encourage user-generated content.

Millennials are more likely than any previous generation to look at reviews and recommendations before a purchase decision, with more than 50% of them consulting some form of user-generated content before making big purchases. User-generated content such as product reviews, photos, videos, and tweets are deemed trustworthy by millennials (who are all about authenticity). To encourage user-generated content, CPG brands should create opportunities where millennials are easily able to share their experiences, feedback, and ideas. 

Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” campaign is a perfect example of a brand that successfully engaged millennials and other generations. Lay’s ran a contest that asked customers to create new potato chip flavors and received 14 million submissions. The brand also encouraged fans to vote on their favorite flavors on Facebook and Twitter, which resulted in millions of votes cast and—most importantly—millions of engaged fans.

4.  Demonstrate your values.

As the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in U.S. history, millennials are very devoted to social causes. This generation also has access to a constant stream of breaking news on social and environmental issues, which makes them especially connected to these causes.

It’s no surprise then that millennials are more apt to engage with CPG brands that are socially responsible. In fact, 81% of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship. To take advantage of this trend, CPG brands must carefully define who they are and what they value, and then align themselves with a charity that shares those same values, or take other actions that highlight their brand’s values and philanthropic efforts.

Ben & Jerry’s is a CPG brand well known for its social and environmental responsibility. In fact, part of the company’s mission is to make the world a better place. Ben & Jerry’s has participated in Climate Marches world-wide, and encourages its customers and employees to participate as well. Not only do these efforts support the environment, but they also positively impact the Ben & Jerry’s brand: the company’s most recent Climate March campaign resulted in 350 million media impressions and led to an 11-point brand lift in the social responsibility category.

5.  Get to the point.

Forty-one percent of millennials say they abandon content that they deem too long. Because millennials are constantly inundated with messaging from brands, they don’t spend a significant amount of time engaging with individual pieces of content. This generation tends to have a shorter attention span, and it’s important that CPG brands adjust their marketing strategies to accommodate millennials’ tendency to quickly peruse content. Small, digestible nuggets of content with focused and relevant messaging are key in capturing and keeping millennials’ attention.  

Coca Cola’s “Ahh Effect” campaign offered these little nuggets of content through 61 microsites that provided quick games and other content for millennials. The campaign was a huge success, resulting in more than 5 million visits to AHH.com URLs, nearly 70% of which were “organic" or, in other words, not from paid media.

KEY TAKEAWAYS: When CPG brands reach out to millennials, they should remember to be brief, authentically demonstrate their values, encourage participation and sharing, and be where millennials are. If your brand targets millennial moms specifically, download this free white paper to learn more about how CPG brands can reach moms in the digital age.