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Why I'm worried about the word millennial

In marketing, we can get tied up in our creativity and process, so we need to take a step back, ask some questions and listen to the answers

Venning..."True Music platform has boosted Ballantine’s brand perception scores"
Venning..."True Music platform has boosted Ballantine’s brand perception scores"

I’m getting a bit worried about the word millennial. Not just because it’s overused as a term, but because it’s not that helpful in marketing. The automatic default to millennials as a monolithic consumer group is something we seriously need to think about, especially in the drinks industry.

Let’s not reinforce the negative stereotypes. Instead, we should focus on the common values of "millennial" lifestyle shared across demographics, which gives a much better view of how we can find shared ground with them.

Thinking outside the bottle
For us, the start point has been to listen, listen, and then listen a bit more. A lot of us working in marketing are under 40 (myself not included) but we can’t rely on our own points of view. We’re inside the bottle and can’t read the label. So we’ve got to get out there and acknowledge the real state of play.

Before launching our major brand platform for Ballantine’s, True Music, we spent time speaking to groups of "millennials" from all around the world. When asked what was most important to them personally, an overwhelming number said it was to be authentic and true to themselves – whether that be in their careers, their personal lives or when it came to the brands they choose.

The Scotch whisky industry is built on tradition and authenticity. We adhere to that, weaving our brand essence "Stay True" throughout everything we do. However, we’re always looking at ways to challenge the norm and I’m a firm believer that taking a progressive attitude to marketing and pushing the boundaries create exciting results.

We know the whisky drinker demographic is changing and we need to focus on being relevant and accessible. We wanted to lead this change, and from speaking with consumers all over the world, True Music – our global music platform that champions authentic artists who do it "their way" – was born. 

Building relationships
If you’d have told me a few years ago that a brand would successfully and intrinsically bring electronic music and traditional Scotch whisky together, I’d have probably called your bluff but I’ve witnessed it first-hand (it’s safe to say I’m certainly expanding my music repertoire). But True Music has toured the world and built a relationship with fans – whom we call our "mates" – via the music experience we bring.

Together, we’ve put on more than 27 shows in more than 13 countries, achieving more than 75 million views. We’ve unearthed and given global reach to some of the most impressive and inspiring artists around the world. We’ve celebrated the most credible music scenes, showcasing the stories of the incredible artists within them, we’ve taken our mates along for the ride… and it’s working.

In Spain, for example, we have tripled our brand perception score since our True Music Madrid show early last year. It’s become not only an amazing campaign, but part of the brand’s integral existence. It’s simple, with authenticity and truth at its core.

That’s the magic of it – it’s not what you expect, but it’s what the audience wants. Sometimes we become so blinded by our creativity that we don’t take a step back and just listen. Since True Music’s inception, we have seen a positive increase in brand perception, purchase intent, and preference, all of which have made a tangible difference to our brand. Just ask the right questions, listen, and find the shared ground. If you get any or all of these wrong, you’ll know pretty quickly! 

Creative thinking the good way

  • The most creativity-enhancing tech right now is... It sounds dull but ruthlessly exploiting data. It drives more eff ective and effi cient creativity – isn’t that what we all strive for?

  • The most creative work I’ve seen this past year is... Mother’s Action Man ad for MoneySupermarket – it’s genius to take a universally loved icon by people of my age and reimagine it in a dramatic new light

  • What’s your preferred method of communication and why? Simple, always voice or touch – it’s quicker and more human

  • I go to Cannes for the... large doses of inspiration 

  • Where in the world is creatively exciting and why? I’d have to say Africa. Emerging markets always push the boundaries and challenge convention – it’s refreshing

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