Young money how luxury brands are reaching millennials

As one of the largest generations in history grows into their prime spending years, old luxury brands need to learn new tricks.

Chinese rapper Kris Wu is having a moment. The 20-something recently became the first Chinese-born artist to sign a deal with Universal records (whose roster includes Kanye and Lady Gaga) and he’s already worked with major American hip-hop artists Travis Scott and Pharrell. He’s also a brand ambassador and model for Burberry, one of the oldest and most iconic luxury brands in the world.

Just a decade ago, Wu might’ve seemed an absurd match for a classic British fashion house. But the launch of Burberry x Kris Wu, a limited-edition capsule inspired by Wu’s edgy personal style and song lyrics, is just one example of just how high-end brands are drastically shaking up their marketing tactics and their offerings to appeal to Millennials. It’s not just to “get with the times” but as a means of survival, seeing as the generation is quickly growing into the most important retail demographic in the world.

By now, any tuned-in marketer has seen the research (and likely witnessed it firsthand): Millennials value experiences over material things. You’d think that a heritage goods brand like Burberry – known for classic pieces like belted trenches and understated bags adorned with its age-old tan, black and red tartan – would be dead in the water. But there’s still a soft spot for luxury items in the hearts of these digitally savvy, diverse and opinionated consumers. It’s just a matter of finding the way in.

focus on quality products is important for millennials

Photo by Annie Spratt

1. Focus on Quality

A wise Macklemore once said, “I’ma take your grandpa’s style, I’ma take your grandpa’s style. No, for real, ask your grandpa – Can I have his hand-me-downs?”. The chart-topping song even condemned high markups on designer t-shirts (“Fifty dollars for a T-shirt, that’s just some ignorant sh*t.”). The message? Gone are the days when a brand could slap its logo on any basic item and have it sell like hot cakes (we’re looking at you, ’90s and ’00s). Since Millennials are hesitant to spend money on tangible goods to begin with, they refuse to be tricked into paying for a sub-par product. Instead, they’re strong supporters of well-established brands associated with quality. There’s just something about a buttery leather vintage Yves Saint Laurent bag that feels safe and worthwhile, whether or not that bag was found in grandma’s closet. Many Millennials also prioritize sustainability, a factor that works to the advantage of luxury brands, since expertly-crafted pieces are likely to last longer (Gucci has gone extra eco, even nixing fur and reforming almost every level of their manufacturing).

2. Tell a Story

How does a brand communicate their beliefs, craftsmanship, heritage and culture? It goes without saying that Millennials are a digital generation, so for luxury brands, the challenge becomes how to integrate their entire ethos into mere snippets – Instagram posts and stories, GIFs, short but impactful videos (like this one from Lacoste, in which a young couple jumps between train cars and end up jumping through decades, representing the brand’s timelessness). Delvaux, the world’s oldest luxury leather-goods house, created four limited-edition handbags inspired by Game of Thrones, along with short animated videos for each. Millennials love new and edgy, but they also love legacy and nostalgia; a winning campaign should be a mix of both, served fresh in a digital, digestible and shareable format.

3. Make the Experience Memorable

It’s no secret that Millennials demand a seamless, mobile-friendly online shopping experience, but don’t be fooled: stats show that in-person shopping and brick-and-mortar retail spaces are still important. Of course, these must also evolve – it’s out with the stuffy, pretentious, white-glove and in with the curated, pop-up, experiential. Even the most high-end brands should cater to the Millennial desire for “moments” and experiences, whether that’s a traveling Louis Vuitton pop-up collection (complete with a colorful Instagrammable VW camper van) or a Cartier activation party featuring a Champagne vending machine (to relaunch one of the brand’s oldest and most iconic watch models). Shopping itself has morphed into a chance to make memories – and that’s just what Millennials are in the market for.

To understand the real buying power of Canadian Millennials, get your copy of our latest data-driven white paper on the behaviors and interests of this generation.

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