Brands and companies face the challenge of not only making their products customisable, but meaningful and valuable, too. Sophie Maxwell, futures director at Pearlfisher Global, looks further into the multi-layered need of presenting innovative products to millennial consumers.
Personalisation has become mandatory for millennials.
Having become accustomed to having input via social media, they now expect that same behaviour to extend to all of their branded choices. For brands to answer those more specific needs and at the same time be true to their core offer, they now need to look at new ways to collaborate with their consumers, from creating a dialogue which listens to their suggestions to allowing for individual curation and micro-customisation through design.
This can range from physical brand experiences to targeted digital journeys, and everything in between. Images and visual content are millennials’ preferred form of communication and so brands will need to think not just about their offer in terms of adapting their products and new product development, but how they package and create desirable experiences effectively, quickly – and personally – for their audience.
Brands not only need to be able to adapt to personalisation, but millennial consumers seek reliability, too.
This generation fervently practices what it preaches – look at young people’s commitment to the cult of ‘wellness’; they expect brands to do the same. This can mean balancing what are sometimes seen as opposing requirements or value systems.
Millennials do want a feeling of discovery, of constant change and personalisation, but core values like reliability, authenticity and transparency are a number of ethics that have become of the utmost importance to them. They have become integral to their choices for food and eating habits, for example.
The quick service and ambience of popular contemporary eateries like Leon and Chipotle tick all the boxes for this audience – providing trustworthy, familiar and reliable food experiences that are also customised and personalised.
However, McDonalds, for example, has had a different journey with the same audience – it’s interesting to see them open their new restaurant in Chicago this week that resembles an Apple store and has a more globally influenced menu as they evolve their way to connect.
Other more classic and traditional brands, like Oreo and Coca-Cola, are also favourites because they are still innovating for this discerning, engaged and sophisticated audience – particularly with shareable social campaigns such as Oreo’s Colorfilled.
As well as all of the above to consider, health and convenience are two of the biggest drivers for this food and drink consumer.
Amazon Go is an example of how convenience and technology will go hand in hand for the future of purchasing, Maxwell says.
Above all, millennials are looking for brands to find unique ways to inspire and engage with them on many different levels that take them beyond just the brand and the product in hand.
Added to this, these consumers are also more mindful in their brand choices and know – and want to know – more of the detail of the brand and the ‘who made it, what with, when and where’ from the story they are told.
The generation that came before them did not expect these questions to be answered by brands at the same age. They are looking for the most considered, sustainable – where possible local – and ethical options and brands that take responsibility for making this happen, with both their products and packaging, will win out.
As consumers become more discerning, and market spaces more saturated but compact, there is perhaps an onus and interesting opportunity for brands to not try and be all things to all people but to once again focus instead on a single element that makes them truly differentiated and unique such as London’s artisan buttersmith, Ampersand Butter Culture.
Millennials are increasingly expecting the unexpected as their dynamically evolving lifestyles demand new food occasions – the continued rise of snacking culture for example – and exploration of new taste sensations.
There is also an opportunity for brands, for example, to experiment with hybrids – from new ingredient combinations to partnerships – that remain pertinent to our individual lifestyles without losing the power to surprise.
Personalisation will only overcomplicate the industry if we create solutions that don’t feel like a natural extension of the brand, but in short, we do expect to work with brands to continue to innovate and challenge expectations in this area.
We are already seeing customisable labels and DNA-specific meal plans becoming more mainstream, fostering a new sense of intimacy and individuality at a mass level and the demand for innovations in terms of food preparation and delivery shows no sign of abating. We will expect food services, such as Deliveroo, to continue to intuitively blend into the rest of our digital lives with a simple click or swipe, seamlessly curating the experience based on our preferences and tastes.
Amazon Go is obviously representing the next generation of how this will affect our day to day lives. But technology is also helping create a progressive range of systems that are making home-grown agriculture – with the new Hyundai Kitchen Nano Garden – and the 3D printing of food a near reality and pushing the boundaries of food personalisation and customisation.
Technological design and development aside, all brands will need to look at how they can foster more creative interaction and enablement rather than just providing a finished product.
With the millennial voice reputedly the strongest one in driving the campaign for the legalisation of cannabis, CBD edibles are also an exciting innovation area in terms of not just a new ingredient and taste offer but by also catering to individual dose and desire.
Brands such as California’s Defonce cannabis-infused chocolate is aiming for premium indulgence before psycho-active effects, focusing on flavour, aroma and quality, with ingenious bars made of 18 custom-moulded, geometric-shaped doses of cannabis chocolate. We expect CBD to influence every sector in the next couple of years but it will almost certainly be driven by beverage and food.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019