Earlier this week, we kicked off a three-part series of blogs dedicated to brands that are doing a stellar job of engaging millennial buyers. (If you missed it, we covered all-star millennial marketer Converse; you can read the post here.)

In today’s installment, we’re switching gears. What about brands whose products can’t be flaunted as easily as those in retail? What happens if your job is to sell shiny aluminum cans?

According to Forbes, millennials will spend $65 billion on consumer packaged goods (CPG) over the next 10 years. But here’s the catch. While their pockets run deep, millennials possess very different spending behaviors compared to those who came before them. This presents an obvious challenge for even the most innovative CPG brands.

Forbes also notes that millennials tend to spend a modest premium on brands they deem as “worthy,” but when a brand fails to provide enough value, they’re quick to buy private label. As a marketer, you have to wonder – do millennials think you’re worth it?

As a CPG marketer, there are many things you can do to win over millennial buyers. For example, it’s in your best interest to focus on packaging, to build your social communities, and to speak to a lifestyle when promoting your products. These are elements that millennials take into consideration when weighing the benefits of spending a little extra on an item.

Helping Millennials “Taste the Feeling”

visual marketing to millennial buyers

Credit, from left to right: Coca-Cola Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest

Coca-Cola is among the most recognizable and massive beverage brands on the market today. They own dozens of the most popular drink labels internationally, and each product line has its own unique vibe and marketing MO.

In building its brand, Coca-Cola has demonstrated time and again that they are really good listeners – especially when it comes to the millennial market. By paying attention to this important demographic—their wants, needs, priorities, goals—Coca-Cola has managed to stay relevant year after year after year.

Some of the best practices that have enabled Coca-Cola to penetrate the millennial market include:

  1. Appealing to the importance of transparency and social responsibility.
  2. Tuning in to the idea of millennials as “visual eaters” on social.
  3. Weaving pop culture throughout their marketing messaging.

Let’s break each of these down here.

1. Sustainability and Social Responsibility

There’s no question that millennials are mindful consumers. This speaks to a larger cultural shift in the way people think about the items they choose to buy. From ingredients to packaging and labor conditions, millennials feel particularly connected to brands that keep sustainability and social responsibility top-of-mind. The more transparency you create around your employees, suppliers, factories, distribution, raw materials and so on, the better.

One way Coca-Cola communicates this level of commitment to consumers is through their sustainability page, which lives on the company website. Filled with inspiring images, the page highlights Coca-Cola’s water stewardship programs, their sustainable packaging, and a host of other initiatives.

Coca-Cola 5by20 films

Screenshot from coca-colacompany.com

Take their 5by20 Artisans film—profiling women around the globe who are creating beautiful goods from their beverage packaging—for example. By showcasing their benevolence, the Coca-Cola brand builds trust – and that trust translates to loyalty.

2. Embracing “Visual Eaters”

Something else we know about millennials? With a phone at arm’s length—always—they are a generation of visual eaters. No phones at the dinner table? Not likely. Millennials absolutely love snapping photos of, and sharing, their experiences with food.

Needless to say, this is a goldmine of opportunity for CPG brands. Marketers can now leverage a plethora of social channels, from Instagram and Pinterest to Snapchat and Facebook, to share recipes, to highlight entertainment ideas, or to simply publish #foodporn.

According to Maxwell PR, millennials are consistently setting food trends, looking to friends and social media for advice on what to buy and where to dine. More than that, they view food as a form of entertainment and self-expression. They are more likely than other groups to ask friends before selecting a restaurant. They spend time reading about food online.

These attributes make up the “visual eater” – that socially-inclined individual who shares a photo of their meal before ever taking a bite. Coca-Cola has latched on to millennials’ hunger for social sharing, and their efforts are paying off.

#ShareaCoke

Millennial Shoppers #ShareaCoke

According to Eater, “Selfies are the Hail Mary play of every food brand trying so unbelievably hard to get that sweet, sweet millennial dollar.”

If that’s the case, consider Coca-Cola’s #ShareaCoke campaign to be a million dollar idea (although they probably made slightly more). It didn’t take long for the campaign—which features cans that say “Share a Coke with…” followed by a popular first name or nickname—to take off in popularity. At the time of this blog post, #ShareaCoke had been shared on Instagram nearly 700k times.

This campaign is particularly attractive to millennials not only because it personalizes an otherwise ubiquitous product, but also because … well, it’s ultra social. Who wouldn’t want to share a photo of a Coke can with their name scrawled across it? At it’s core, it’s just plain cool. To leverage this excitement, Coca-Cola even created an option on their website to bulk order custom cans or bottles – a great idea for weddings and other celebrations.

Make it Pinteresting

Coca-Cola also appeals to visual eaters by maximizing their Pinterest presence. Why Pinterest? Simple. It’s a discovery-oriented platform that is absolutely perfect for sharing recipes. And pins live on forever. Coca-Cola’s content can continue to be pinned and repinned by an endless number of users.

Coca-Cola's Millennial Pinterest Strategy

To make sure their content is ultra-targeted and speaks to different buyers and occasions, Coca-Cola creates millennial-minded boards, such as the “Ultimate Tailgate Party,’’ “Coke Swag” and “Easy Recipes.” The brand offers recipes for pre-game celebrations, retro gifts and accessories, and drink ideas that are destined to be party hits.

3. Enlisting Popular Themes and Trends

As one of the most prominent brands in the beverage market, Coca-Cola has been affiliated with many celebrity and entertainment partnerships over the years. This has worked well for the brand. By incorporating buzzworthy topics of conversations throughout their marketing, Coca-Cola is able to playfully take part in millennial banter on social.

Coca-Cola and Starwars

For example, Coca-Cola recently paid homage to Star Wars: The Force Awakens with this image (^), which was published to their Instagram feed. According to The Guardian, men ages 18-49 were most likely to see the film, the majority of who fell into the millennial bracket. This makes the content both fun for and relevant to this coveted consumer.

In our next blog exploring the most-loved millennial brands, we’ll wrap up the series with a publisher that’s setting the visual marketing bar high. I hope you’ll join us, and stay tuned!