Every business has a focal point for its marketing. In the majority of cases, that focal point is either the company’s greatest achievement to date, or the one thing that the company does better than any of its rivals. The purpose of all business marketing is to attract new customers, and to tell them – in as short and snappy a way as possible – that their company is the right one to choose for whatever product or service it is that they provide. Using information about the business might feel like the most logical and appropriate way to do it, but it isn’t. You might actually be better served by putting some bunny ears on and taking a cute picture; and no, we aren’t joking.
There are a few things we need to explain in order to back that statement up. The first of them is that right now, the target market for most businesses is Millennials. Boomers are now too old to be considered as a current or future client base, Generation X is completely set in their ways when it comes to buying habits, and Millennials are now of an age where they’re making large purchases, like cars and houses. The issue is that Millennials really hate advertising. They’ve grown up in an extremely commercial world, and they can see an advert coming a mile away. They ignore it. Your marketing material might feature the most outstanding content in the world, but they won’t even read it.
What Millennials do like, however, is cute animals. They spend more on pets than any generation in history. Spending on birthday cakes for pets and pajamas for pets has accelerated dramatically in recent years, and it’s motivated by the Millennial love of all things adorable. This is, after all, the generation that expanded the internet and then filled it with pictures of cats. It’s also the generation that can’t seem to take a selfie without applying a filter to it to make themselves appear to have cute red cheeks, bunny rabbit noses, or other visual elements that seem to have been drawn from a Disney movie. On the topic of Disney, childhood Millennial couples are going on Disney holidays far more than their parents ever did. This is the great contradiction that sits at the heart of Millennials when it comes to business. They’re too cynical for advertising, but still seem to be children at heart when it comes to their spending habits.
There may be no greater example of what we’re talking about than the one that can be found on parts of the internet reserved for online slots sites or their sister sites. The most popular mobile slots games in new UK casinos right now – and possibly the whole world – is called ‘Fluffy Favourites.’ It’s a slots game like any other you’ve ever seen, but it stars a cast of cuddly, fluffy toys who have come to life. Millennials are playing mobile slots in significant numbers – which is an adult activity – but they’re particularly drawn to a mobile slots game which features characters that belong in a child’s bedroom. Eyecon, the company who made the game, were smart enough to understand the appeal of using such characters in marketing. Your business – unless it would be completely inappropriate to do so – should be looking at the same strategy.
If the success of the cute approach was confined purely to the world of mobile slots, we wouldn’t make such a deal of it. It’s not, though. If you remember the famous Budweiser advert from the Superbowl back in 2015, you’ll recall that it starred a horse and a dog. What do a horse and a dog have to do with beer? Absolutely nothing. They didn’t have to. They were cute, and the cuteness resonated with the audience. People remembered the advert, and then they went out and bought more Budweiser. If you’re a resident of the UK, you’re probably sick of the sight of a cute family of meerkats who advertise a price comparison website. Again, the meerkats have nothing to do with the service that’s being sold. They’re there for the express purpose of making the service seem cute and quirky to Millennial customers, and the strategy works. The ‘Compare the Market’ website that they advertise is the outright leader within its sector.
If yours is a business which demands to be taken seriously, going for the cute approach can be counter-intuitive. There might not seem like an immediately obvious ‘cute’ angle to your business. The simple truth, though, is that there doesn’t need to be one. As we’ve seen from the examples we discussed above, there needn’t be any connection at all between what your business does, and what you use to advertise it. There’s no reason why you couldn’t adopt a cartoon hippo as your company mascot. Perhaps a friendly-looking shark would do the trick, or a hamster? As ridiculous as it sounds, so long as it looks adorable, we know from Millennial consumer behavior that they’re likely to look twice at it, and that’s all you need to get their attention. Forget the wording, and focus on the visual. If the visual is right, you’ll reach new customers.
Whether this approach will still work ten years from now is another matter entirely. Generation Z is still young, but early research that’s been conducted on them suggests that they’ll be even harder to reach than their Millennial counterparts. They’re far more likely to have ad-blocking software installed on their phones, they’re almost certain to skip advertising content on videos, and in some instances, they’ll avoid a product completely if they can see that it contains advertising in any form. Unless a new strategy proves capable of reaching them, it might be that everyone who works in marketing has to give up and find a new career a decade from now. In the meantime, let’s all take the cute approach to marketing, and make hay while the sun is still shining!