Future consumers are interacting with brands earlier and earlier in life in today’s digital-dominated world, giving businesses a chance to connect with new audiences while they are still young. The result is a unique challenge for creative teams as they attempt to balance the tastes and preferences of emerging audiences with those of the customers they already have.
Try to everyone and you inevitably end up becoming a forgettable face in an attractive competitive marketplace. Commit yourself too fully to one age demographic, however, and you risk either burning hard-earned “connection” capital with current customers or turning off new ones.
Adding to this complexity is the fact that members of younger generations do not just have different tastes in styles and color palettes when compared to Baby Boomers and Gen X. As a 2020 study by the Pew Research Center showed, those born in the United States after 1996 are more ethnically and racially diverse, educated, and concerned about climate change and social issues than their predecessors — all factors with the potential to profoundly shape how they connect with brands.
The best way to tailor your brand image to accommodate younger audiences — without alienating mature ones — depends on a variety of factors, including your brand’s product, mission, and business model. Fortunately, there are a few sound strategies any creative leader can apply when weighing potential changes to a brand’s identity. Keep them handy as you determine how best to balance both the different generations of your consumers and the need for change versus continuity in your brand’s image.
Go deep with your current audience
The first step in developing a rebranding strategy is to learn everything you can about your customers. Be curious. Do not stop with how much they make, where they live, or what other brands they like. What are their hobbies, their favorite bands, and the books they are reading? Of course, not all this information will be available, but you might be surprised what you can learn in today’s data-filled world.
Once you have mapped out as many behaviors as you can, it’s time to dig into the psychographics — consumers’ cognitive and psychological attributes that reveal their beliefs, goals, and values. Increasingly, consumers of all ages reward brands that share their values. This means understanding their concerns for themselves and the broader world
Millennials, for example, are a diverse group that values acceptance and self-expression. It is no surprise then that they are likely to seek out brands that exemplify these traits.
Learn all you can about younger audiences
You’ve done it. You have gleaned every possible insight into your loyal, existing customers. Congratulations! Now do it again — only this time focusing entirely on your customers of tomorrow.
Born between 1997 and 2012, Generation Z puts a premium on being permitted a fluid and expansive identity. Being defined by just a few traits or attributes feels restricting to this group of experimenters and disrupters. Born on the brink of the tech revolution, Zoomers are more allergic to any generation before them to traditional marketing, making them a group best met through casual and authentic conversation.
As you work to achieve greater detail about these younger consumers, you may want to start with reputable research institutes like the Pew Research Center and Gallup, as well as academics and who have their fingers on the pulse of rising generations.
Find the overlap
The more audience insights you are able to compile, the better your odds of finding overlap between various age groups. For example, you might find your audience is looking for a greater emphasis on sustainability from brands, regardless of their age. Or maybe they have collectively grown tired of social media captions that feel like they came straight from the corporate office.
By focusing your brand’s content on what appeals to a larger subset of generations, you can continue to reach your core audience while expanding your appeal to new demographics.
Other signs you need to refresh your brand image
Not all reasons for a rebrand come down to demographics, nor take studies to recognize. The following are all signs it is time for a few changes, regardless of what age group you are trying to speak to.
- You do not stand out. One of the main goals of branding is to set your company apart from the competitors in your industry. If your branding is unoriginal or too similar to competitors, it is easy to be overshadowed. To avoid blending in, focus your branding on your “differentiators” — or the factors that make you different from industry competitors.
- Your message is unclear. Another important goal of branding is to communicate your messages and goals as an organization. When a company’s branding does not have a clear message, it’s harder for customers to engage with.
- Your organization has grown. Organizations often grow and expand their scope quickly, and it is important for their branding to keep up. If you do not update your organization’s branding to reflect growth, you are likely limiting the reach of your brand. Branding should always be updated to account for major changes like regional expansions and new services.
- Your current branding is inconsistent. Numerous individual components make up an organization’s branding, such as the colors in the logo and the tone of the advertisements. When these elements are not cohesive, it can confuse customers and harm your overall image. Using consistent design and stylistic elements in all your content will make your branding stronger and more recognizable.
How to refresh your brand’s image for relevance and longevity
Rebranding can set a brand on a whole new trajectory, but frequent rebranding can be costly and confusing for customers. For many organizations, the ultimate goal is to create a brand that retains its relevance over time. When you are working on a rebranding strategy, it is important to keep longevity in mind.
Here are several ways to develop a brand image that will last.
Focus on visuals
Visual elements like photos and videos are a key component of any organization’s branding and are especially important when targeting a younger audience. When it comes to getting them right, avoid cutting corners.
Basic strategies, such as investing in better photography and defining guidelines for the types of photography that can be used in-house, will help you generate high-quality visuals that are on brand, consistently.
Use social media
Sharing photos and videos on social media can improve engagement and protect your brand’s relevance over time. Social media is an essential tool for marketing to younger generations, but the way you use social media can determine your success.
Ideally, the content you share on social media should be both interesting to consumers and relevant to your brand. By choosing the right subjects and using popular editing techniques, you can generate great photos for social media that engage your target audience.
When you are working on a rebrand, the first approach you take may not always work, especially if you are marketing to younger generations. Determining the best strategy often requires some experimentation. These experiments may focus on ways to improve engagement without adding to expenses, such as using photo editing tools to repurpose existing visual assets for new content.
Another factor that should guide your future rebranding efforts is the feedback you get from past and current audiences. People who have interacted with your brand can offer a unique perspective.
Solicit their input actively to better pinpoint any problem areas or strategies that are resonating.
Defer to the data
Redesigns, whether to reach new audiences or keep current ones engaged, are powerful tools for maintaining long-term brand success. But they should not be undertaken lightly. Do your research both on your current and future audiences as well as your competitors. And whatever you do, be sure to keep your original core audience in mind throughout the rebranding process. That way, you can be confident any updates you make do not come at the cost of your customers or core values.