Is your brand strategy ready for today’s newest influencers?
A lot has been written about short term brand strategy in response to the economic downturn and our changing buying patterns. Whilst short term adjustments are critical, long term brand plans are equally important.
All brands evolve over time to accommodate the next generation of decision makers, and it looks as if Generation Alpha – born 2010 onwards – are already making their mark on long term branding plans across many sectors; this includes service industries that are significantly affected by the pandemic such as travel, hotels and events (see below).
It took a while for some brand strategies to adjust to Millennial expectations which were closely followed by the very different attitudes and demands from Generation Z (born 1996 to 2010). Now, forward thinking brands are trying to understand how best to reach the children of Millennials, the so-called Generation Alpha.
It appears the children of Millennials have a disproportionate influence on household buying decisions, even though the oldest are only 10 years old; and with 2.5m Alphas born weekly, by 2025 their numbers are expected to reach 2bn, overtaking Gen Z their closest peer group in both numbers and influence.
“Generation Alpha will be the most formally educated generation ever, the most technology-supplied generation ever and globally the wealthiest generation ever.”
By targeting Alphas now, brands can pave the way for long term changes whilst at the same time it’s a sound way to influence the current spending power of Millennials as they move on and adjust to their needs as family makers.
To reach these children today, whilst 22 percent are influenced by TV advertising, they are more receptive to video and their favourite YouTube stars; investment in marketing to Alphas via You Tube influencers makes sense, whilst in the home Google Home and Alexa are often akin to their real friends.
The influence of Alphas on travel and hotel selection
Whilst under 10-year olds value different devices and screen time highly, their influence extends well beyond entertainment technology. Take the leisure industry as an example, where their ideas and opinions are already influencing family decisions on travel, hospitality and attractions according to Expedia’s Generation Alpha & Family Travel Trends (a study in April & May 2020 of c.10k relevant travellers from 9 different countries). Some highlights:
- 83% say they plan trips together as a family
- 50% say their under-10 year olds share online and TV content to influence family trips
- 60% say travel ideas and inspiration come from children including:
- destination selection (64%) and trip activities (57%)
- 95% say keeping a young family entertained and happy is the key factor
- with family fun, great experiences, safe environment topping the list
- 60% say hotels are their favourite choice of accommodation
With the limited options and revenue streams available to the travel industry at the moment, owners, investors and managers can adjust short term brand plans to embrace these powerful family influencers at the same time as building loyalty for the future; it should pay well to underpin long term growth plans by getting close to this newest consumer segment early.
Brand strategy and the COVID-19 factor
Since the end of May the time of Expedia’s survey, the increased affect of the pandemic needs to be factored in. McCrindle’s research on the effects of COVID-19 found 84% respondents believe the pandemic will significantly shape Generation Alpha – but the good news is that 78% believe COVID will make their Generation Alpha children more resilient for the future.
This bodes well for building brand strategies and brand values that gain interest and build loyalty with Gen Alphas from an early age in all sectors from travel and hospitality to food, fashion, entertainment, wellbeing and beyond.
Every economic downturn is different so there is no template for handling this or the next crisis that comes along – especially when it comes to brand strategy.
However, there are patterns to human behaviour that remain the same. These patterns – which reflect the way all of us as consumers react to a downturn and how we prioritise – are a useful prompt to reviewing our brand strategy from a customer perspective.
Nearly all businesses are having to make economies and the obvious move may be to cut brand assets (talent, services, communications) and compete on price for market share.
Survival and success stories, however, often lead back to brands that look carefully at how differently people around them are behaving and realign themselves through innovation to satisfy changing needs and priorities. Here is a simple checklist to help refocus brands in a downturn:
- Alarmed – vulnerable and hardest hit
- Concerned – resilient but worried
- Secure – comfortable to ride it out
- Live for now – worry later
How they prioritise:
(based on Harvard Business Review model)
How brands can respond:
On the innovation side, there have been great examples recently from owners and managers who quickly grasped the reality of genuine needs and behaviours and have proved that innovation will create new revenue streams or enhance existing ones.
From food boxes, cooking classes and home delivery using streamlined menus to retailing food, merchandise and wine and converting restaurant space into groceries and delis; Searcys is a smart example of how innovation has been used to enhance existing products – such as afternoon tea at Blenheim Palace and other venues; these have been relaunched as high value pre-sell al fresco packages with enormous success from day one.
In a different sector altogether, The Hollies Care Centre has responded to the heightened sensitivity in the needs of applicants since the pandemic; the new Garden Suites and Apartments being introduced this year will provide a reassuring sense of safety, own space and privacy.
Taking inspiration from the above, here are a few tips from past successes to help innovate within your brand strategy and create new revenue streams.
- Streamline products: focus on what people need and will buy now
- Make your brand accessible: in the home and on site
- Reduce complexity: to avoid any sacrifice in quality
- Differentiate on price: add value in new ways; don’t race to the bottom
- Double efforts to build trust: no compromise on safety, hygiene and fairness
- Connect emotionally: be honest and show you’re on the customer’s side
Finally, be ready for your downturn exit:
Refresh your brand to reflect the change in human needs, because whilst businesses are putting customers under a microscope, their customers are looking at brand behaviour more closely than ever.
At IM London, we’re here to help you with any of your branding needs. Drop us a line or connect with us via Whatsapp if you’d like to speak about your brand strategy.