Millennial fashion consumers have transformed the way brands do business. Magazine ads have been supplanted by social media, models by influencers. Brand names matter less than brand philosophies, and experiences matter more than products.
Broadly defined as those born between the 1980’s-2000’s, millennials have become the world’s most powerful consumer group. So, for millennial fashion brands, understanding how to communicate and connect with them is crucial in order to thrive.
Here are five brands winning over millennial fashion consumers with their digital and brand strategies.
For millennials, doing is better than having.
According to a research carried out by Merkle and Levo agency, 72% of millennial women said that spending on experiences makes them the happiest. Another research reported that 69% of millennials believe that attending live events and experiences makes them more connected to other people, the community, and the world. This presents an obvious challenge for fashion brands: How to turn shopping for clothing into a deeper and more desirable experience?
Visit Free People’s blog BLDG 25 and you’ll find the answer. The US-based retailer have successfully positioned themselves not just as a brand, but as a lifestyle. Content on the blog is judiciously curated to appeal to the free-spirited Free People girl; a girl who shoppers not only relate to, but aspire to be. Importantly, this lifestyle content extends well beyond product tie-ins. Not every post is out to sell you something.
Free People have taken this lifestyle brand idea one step further, and used it to tap into the millennial desire for real-life experiences. They opened their first “Free People Movement” pop-up space in New York’s Soho, with other locations soon following in the wake of its success.
The secret? Unlike regular retail pop-ups, these host a monthly calendar of activities, like fitness classes and self-development workshops. These experiences are perfectly tailored to Free People’s target market: the same girl that’s drawn to a tarot workshop or meditation class is an opportune audience for the brand’s bohemian dresses and crystal pendants.
Free People have understood that experiences like these don’t just connect millennial fashion consumers to each other and the world — they also connect them to the brand. And fostering that connection is worth the effort because, ultimately, it results in product flying off shelves.
Revolve Clothing is another brand using experiences to reach millennial fashion lovers. Their strategy? Leveraging major events like Coachella as a form of influencer marketing.
“Coachella, and more broadly festivals, have become the new fashion week for millennials,” Revolve co-founder Michael Mente told Forbes. “It’s authentic, experiential […] and gives us more opportunities to showcase our brand than a traditional venue like New York Fashion Week.”
According to Forbes, Revolve dressed an impressive 416 influencers at Coachella in 2017. That, plus booking out a hotel and opening a pop-up shop at the festival, reportedly resulted in 4.4 billion social impressions for the brand.
Festivals aren’t the only way Revolve connects with millennial fashion lovers. They also host influencer trips where content is curated under branded hashtags, and are known for using influencers instead of professional models to showcase their products.
A key element in Revolve’s success is in giving these influencers plenty of freedom to create content that feels natural and organic. Millennials value authenticity; so as Revolve’s success shows, cultivating it should be an objective of any millennial clothing brand.
Unlike past generations, millennials don’t seek status in brand names and logos. Instead, they’re more likely to confer brand loyalty to companies who have a strong brand story or values they connect with, and with those whose products allow them to better express their individual sense of millennial style, regardless of what brand name is on the label.
This is in part a driver behind Aritzia’s success. The Canadian retailer has carved out a niche between fast fashion and luxury: it’s where millennial consumers can go to find unique pieces that balance quality with an accessible price point. Meanwhile, Aritzia’s brand philosophy is centred on inclusivity and corporate responsibility — things millennials care about — further generating trust and brand loyalty.
Aritzia have additional millennial clout because they don’t rely on traditional advertising techniques, which millennials are increasingly distrustful of. “The Aritzia brand, for over 30 years, has grown organically almost entirely through word of mouth and the expansion of our physical presence in market,” Sally Parrott, Aritzia’s VP of Marketing, has said.
Social media has become the biggest platform for that word of mouth marketing, and Aritzia knows how to use it. They blend inclusive photos of real-life customers with those of buzz-worthy influencers and celebrities, ensuring their content not only inspires, but spreads.
Millennial men as well as women have become increasingly drawn to clothing that’s functional, durable, and long-lasting. Could that be the reason why outdoor brands like The North Face have experienced such a surge in popularity?
Indeed, the millennial penchant for heritage brands is well-documented. As noted by Quartz: “The heritage brands experiencing a resurgence among hipsters tend to share several common traits. They’re classic in appearance, rich in history, and famously durable.” These traits, it’s theorised, equate to a feeling of safety for a generation who came of age amidst a global financial crisis.
But that’s not the only reason behind the brands resurgence. For a crowd that values experiences over things, being an adventurer also means looking the part. So it’s not surprising that millennials have taken to sharing images of their outdoor lifestyle experiences while touting The North Face jackets and backpacks.
The brand’s own social media meanwhile focuses on inspirational content, often featuring courageous athletes and explorers and appealing strongly to the millennial sense of adventure.
“@hilareenelson and I walking up. So stoked to be surrounded by these giants as we work our way up the valley to Lhotse base camp.” #LhotseSki2018 and all of our sponsored expeditions going forward will have all trip carbon emissions fully offset. Accessing the most remote places on earth via plane, train, car, helicopter, snow cat, and snowmobile leaves a carbon footprint, and all of us at TNF are committed to protecting the places where we play. Offsetting emissions from these trips is not a perfect solution, but it will help us learn and manage our impacts where we can. Learn more about our custom carbon calculator process and other climate commitments in our bio and follow the expedition in the field with #LhotseSki2018. Words by @jimwmorrison photos by @nickkalisz and @dutchsimpson
Revenue for Vans grew a massive 35% globally in the quarter ending June 2018.
Another heritage brand with roots back to 1966, Vans’ skater shoes have become a favourite for females as well as a millennial men’s fashion staple.
Millennials are embracing vintage and retro styles — a trend Vans have embraced with their social media content. Their photos and videos are filtered with a nostalgic glow, harking back to the brand’s Californian skate culture roots.
The brand’s resurgence has also been spurred along by strong influencer campaigns. Take the launch of the Vans UltraRange earlier this year, for example: To introduce the product to the Middle Eastern market, five local micro-influencers were invited on a desert adventure trip. By engaging a mix of male and female influencers, Vans is not only appealing to the millennial desire for experiences, but also to the generation’s preference for inclusivity and gender neutrality.
Most importantly, the content created and shared by Vans always ties in with the overall themes and identity of the brand, strengthening its story and therefore heightening its appeal to both millennials and future generations.
As with all these five brands, one thing is abundantly clear: knowing and understanding the mindset of millennial fashion consumers is key to staying relevant as the market continues to evolve.