Top corporate officials have spent a large amount of time and money trying to better understand what young people like.
This was true in the 1960s and it’s just as true today, if not even more so.
The term ‘millennial’ has already been worn down and blurred by being used so often and in so many different ways, but the fact is younger generations have shifting ideals as they relate to brands.
There are new expectations nowadays, and individuals want companies to align with their own beliefs and stances on social issues.
If someone feels like a brand has everyone’s best interest at heart, that person is more likely to stay loyal to that brand.
Visuals and visual identity have also become extremely important for brands of all types. In certain cases, it’s the most important factor determining whether someone will engage with a brand at all.
To put it simply, there’s a lot to sort through when it comes to marketing to millennials. Thankfully, Delphine Maillot had some time to speak with us about all this and more.
As Director of Creative Services at VMGroupe/LBCVMG, she makes sure that brands are doing all they can to find, and retain, their audience. In many cases that means an overhaul of visual identity and a reassessment of social media presence, among many other details.
Maillot’s impressive career in marketing and communications made her the perfect person to fill us in on the changing wants and needs of today’s consumers.
Would you say that younger age groups have higher standards for the brands they engage with? Or are their standards just different from those of other age groups?
Younger generations definitely have higher and more specific standards than older age groups. Transparency, environmental impact, and social awareness are aspects that have become key in brand loyalty and brand success.
What do you think are some of the most successful brands in terms of engaging with millennial audiences?
I believe in the market today we can see two different types of success stories: on the one hand, brands that were created for younger audiences such as Off-White, Y-3, Supreme, and on the other hand, brands that have successfully geared their message and positioning to speak to a younger audience, think Gucci, Chanel, or Balenciaga. All 3 of these brands have demonstrated extraordinary abilities to adapt and translate who they are in a way that appeals to a younger audience, either by pulling a 360 like Gucci or Balenciaga, going after the desired and booming underground scenes, or by slowly but surely going younger and bolder like Chanel, who has yet to enter the generation Z market, but has clearly established its timeless dominance on millennials through the endorsement of iconic celebrities and innovative reinterpretation of the brand’s trademark codes.
When it comes to luxury and beauty brands, are younger consumers wary of certain qualities?
It is a challenging and fine line that luxury and beauty brands have to navigate. Younger consumers have this almost visceral, quite physical revulsion for tried-and-true, “same formula since XX year”, cookie-cutter type of approach, but they also have an awe and deep appreciation for heritage, vintage, and craftsmanship. It’s quite a fascinating dance between respect for the old and defiance of the old rules.
How important are compelling visuals to recreating a brand identity?
Compelling visuals are essential, and I always find it heartbreaking when a brand overlooks this component of creating a strong brand identity. Visuals are the first interaction with a brand, the first and most crucial defining moment of whether or not consumers are going to love or drop a brand, especially in all the clutter and massive amount of brands popping up every day. The newer generations have been raised on Instagram, they have been raised to find brands based on images, influencers, and visual identity.
A few years ago, I was working on branding for a new hair accessory brand, created by a professionally acclaimed, industry-renowned hair artist. Back then, despite their fame in professional circles, they had no online presence, no compelling visuals to put forth, and no-one outside of the beauty editors, movie art directors, and fellow hair artists knew about them. Convincing them to take that step, to actually put some effort in their visual identity, was a challenge, but it was detrimental to their success, and while their expertise spoke a lot, it wasn’t until we created a strong visual campaign that we started gaining traction.
How do you explain the value of creativity to the brands you work with?
Brands have one goal: success, whether that is more conversion, more sales, or more recognition. What that means, in such a fast-paced environment as today, is that there is always a challenge to solve, a puzzle brands are struggling to put together, a message that’s getting lost. That’s when creativity comes in: I problem-solve, I translate by using creativity to connect strategy and design, and the result is their desired success. That’s where the value is.
You’ve worked in different countries throughout your career. Do you think that each country demands its own type of strategy or are certain aspects universal?
I strongly believe every brand needs pillars, key components of who they are, what they do and why. These should be evergreen and immutable, regardless of time and place. Ways of expressing them on the other hand, are limitless and have to be catered to specific audiences. Each country has its own history and culture that dictates the way people react and the way people spend their money. The more catered and localized the strategy, the better. For example, while celebrity-based marketing is one if not the main purchase drivers in the US, using the same strategy in France would have very limited results because celebrities are not as culturally relevant.
In South Korea or China, things get even more complex. While celebrities are a big driver, product quality and brand names compete very closely, and more often than not you will find a long list of ever-ending product descriptions, details and pictures that all act as brand and quality re-assurance.
Where do you find fresh inspiration for your work?
I turn to Asia very often for inspiration. I find the art direction often more daring and more transcending. I also really admire the way they mix and intertwine old and new. That’s actually one of the main reasons that drove me to live in Seoul, where the marriage of traditional architecture and modern skyscrapers is outstandingly beautiful, and where fast-paced innovation and technology cohabitates with long-standing traditions.
What is the most important skill you’ve acquired over the years?
Flexibility and adaptability. As I advanced very quickly from creative strategist to junior art director, and to creative services director and being responsible for a team of 8+ designers and art directors, I had to learn to be flexible in my managerial style and adaptable to many different tasks and skillsets. I learned how to understand my team as individuals first, how to fully take advantage of each member’s talents, and recognize that talent in order to achieve the best results together, and when things don’t work out, how to efficiently adapt and make things out.
I’ve had many hats and I have to juggle between many projects on a daily basis. I have to be able to adapt from a sales pitch in front of potential clients, to directing the team on a UX/UI project for L’Oréal, while preparing for a photoshoot, and then designing print collaterals for Ulta Beauty stores nationwide. You have to be both willing and able to adapt and learn fast, and luckily for me, that’s the type of environment in which I thrive.