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Why Category Insights Should Take a Back Seat in Millennial Family Marketing


Millennials have passed through the kid, teen, and young adult life-stages and are now moving into the massive family consumer segment. Some estimates suggest that in three years they will constitute well over half of all grocery spending in the US. But for brands looking to profit from this new super-consumer, what new strategies should be explored for connecting with them in a more powerful and longer lasting way? Are there new category insights and drivers Millennial moms and dads will find more relevant; and is now a good time to embark on a learning initiative to uncover them?

Strange as it may sound coming from the leader of a strategic research and brand consultancy, don’t bother. Because the truth of the matter is the bedrock of their decision making has little to do with the nuts and bolts of your category or your occasion and EVERYTHING to do with the deeper emotional landscape that defines them as people. Perhaps more than other cohorts, parents are highly emotional creatures. After all, they are engaged in what is perhaps the most deeply personal, intensely emotional, but profoundly important occupation a person could have: child rearing. So while they may TRY to use logic and be practical in their consumer choices, parental decision making tends to take place in the heart, not the head. How else do we explain the fact that blindfolded, there is not a chance in the world you could tell the difference between a store brand athletic shoe and Nike’s? Yet despite tremendous economic strain among families today and despite not being able to afford them for themselves, most parents willingly reach deep into their pockets and purchase $100.00 Nike’s for their kids when there is simply no rational justification for doing so.

So, want to know how to engage with Millennial moms and dads? Our advice is to look beyond your category and beyond your brand to the core hopes, fears, joys, and aspirations that Millennial families are most focused on today and (importantly) which your brand ignites. We call these Millennial family “Passion Points™” and from where we sit, they are the keys that will allow your organization to stop marketing to the family head and begin marketinpic1g to the family heart. The Family Room has been mapping, sizing, and decoding Passion Points™ for families around the world for the last ten years. We know how many there are (fourteen); we know what they mean (e.g., the “Education” Passion Point™ has
little to do with what happens in a school classroom); and, perhaps most important, we know how to reveal which Passion Points™ a brand ignites — revealing a great deal about the true role it plays in Millennial families’ lives. Take the LEGO® brand for example — it ignites four of families’ top five Passion Points™, only one of which as anything to do with play. Whirlpool lights up five, only one of which has anything to do with getting laundry clean. And Nike lights up seven Passion Points™, only one of which has anything to do with the functional drivers of athletic footwear.

Put these insights in the hands of a good communications agency and magic happens. Whirlpool’s campaign for washing machines that shift pic2the brands focus from reliability and dependability to Whirlpool as an outlet for parents’ primal need to deliver the kind of every day care that holds families together. LEGO®’s brilliant campaign targeting dads’ childhood love of playing with this classic toy and the unspeakable joy of passing this cherished boyhood tradition on to his son or daughter. Or Nike’s goose-bump producing “Find Your Greatness” campaign that shifts the definition of success from the number of points your kid scored or records they broke, to fostering their shear grit and determination in overcoming their fears and finding their own greatness. Not one word in any of these campaigns about category drivers and not a peep about rational benefits. These campaigns grew from HUMAN insights, not category insights… and from where we sit, there is no reason your brand can’t do the same.

So if winning with Millennial families is on your strategic priority list, may we suggest a different approach? Put the category need-state studies and the occasion-based user segmentation studies aside, and have a look through the other end of the telescope… at the defining hopes, fears, aspirations and Passion Points that define who families are as people and the surprising assortment of Passion Points that are likely already in the emotional DNA of your brand. You will like what you see, and the people who track your market share growth will too.

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One response to “Why Category Insights Should Take a Back Seat in Millennial Family Marketing

  1. Great! Just wanted to add that (of-course, it’s there between the lines), while studying people’s passion points, the brand’s passion points should also be studied in terms of consumer awareness and compatibility with people’s passion points. In short, brand and people passion points should ideally match, if not then Brand Managers will need to rethink their brand passion points.

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