( Estimated reading time: 6 min )
Millennials are currently the biggest group of consumers on the planet, wielding a staggering $44 billion in buying power and making up 26% of the world population. They have the income and are willing to use it, but aren’t as reckless as once believed. In fact, the millennials scepticism is changing the way the fashion industry markets their products. Everything from clothes, watches, make-up, and accessories are adapting to the change. So what’s so different?
Brands all over the world have been using the same basic formula for decades now. Take a recognisable and likeable celebratory or it-girl and connect them to your brand. But millennials are less inclined to be swayed by glossy covers and photoshopped supermodels. They care little about what products a celebrity says they use when the internet allows them to find out what they really do. Traditional marketing lacked authenticity and credibility, and these are the two things millennials respond to the most.
During this shift a new type of celebrity has emerged, one that wields unprecedented influence. Social media such as Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Vine have created the fashion blogger. Perceived as more ‘real’ and relatable than traditional celebrities, millennials view bloggers with more credibility than other sources. When purchasing an item, 33% of millennials surveyed said they rely mostly on advice from bloggers. Studies done by Ninja Metrics on market influence found that 5-10% of social media users are responsible for 60-80% of market influence. Even Vogue, a company who has been a voice to be heard in the fashion industry for close to 100 years, can’t escape the shift.
The current generation of buyers places more faith in the opinions of their peers than in any other source. They are swayed by trust and major companies are adjusting to harness that. The Fashion House Ermenegildo Zegna combined with street blogger Scott Schuman for the launch of their spring 2014 collection, using his blog to introduce their line to his millions of followers.
Numerous brands now employ bloggers to ‘liven up’ their websites. Leading bloggers are brought to fashion shows and some are paid three digits just for a positive Snapchat. Another new strategy is for bloggers place links in their posts that allow their followers to buy reviewed items instantly. Influencer agencies like Future Cast, who specialise in marketing to millennials, believe that this will soon become the norm. In not so many words they assert that if you want to get to millennials you need to go through the bloggers first.
Since bloggers are seen to discover, evaluate, and compare on behalf of their followers it is not likely that their influence will soon dissipate. Because of this, the combination of industry brands and bloggers is suspected of growing in popularity for the next generation.
Another key example of the influence millennials are having on fashion is the emerging trend of gender neutrality. A few have embraced the blurring of gender lines while some have used it to create their launch their brands. Believed to have emerged from the millennials interest in questioning and expanding gender and sexual identity, non-gender brands consist of loose fitting trousers, swagger coats, and easy shirts that have not be cut to fit either a masculine or feminine figure. Designers are divided as to if gender neutrality will be a passing fad or a lasting trend, but there is no question over the effects it has had on marketing already.
Transgender models like Andreja Pejic and Lea T have become the face of major brands and are growing acceptance in the wider mass audience. Other designers have taken it further and now launch their collections with their models wearing masks to hide their gender. Brands use side by side comparisons of models of different genders in the same outfits. But the emerging trend is not only limited to the runway. Selected stores have moved their men’s and women’s wear to be side by side and some have taken the step to mix the two. At the moment it appears that women are more inclined to embrace gender-neutral wear and purchase it more often. However, this might not be much of a change as studies found women are generally less concerned with the intended gender of their purchases.
But while some hail gender blurring as the new wave of the future others has already seen a decline of interest. In some ways, this movement spoke directly to the millennial generation who strive for identity and nonconformity. They long to feel a part of a movement and this trend taps directly into their concern for gender and sexual equality.
Unfortunately, for those hoping for this to be a long-lasting trend, they are facing two challenges. Firstly, those millennials quickly stray from a style once it has become common, and ironically it might be the social media that propelled the style that will be its downfall. In a study performed in England, 28% of millennials surveyed admitted that they will buy new outfits because they don’t want to be tagged in numerous posts in the same clothes.
“28% of millennials surveyed admitted that they will buy new outfits because they don’t want to be tagged in numerous posts in the same clothes”
The second is the rise of Gen Z. While the generation before them strived for individuality Gen Z is inclined towards conformity. As the first generation to be raised in the digital age they promise to be a challenge for the fashion industry. Still, within their teens, they had been marketed to their entire lives. As a result, they are savvy and cynical both of ad campaigns and products themselves. Wanting to create, connect, and make a positive difference in the world at large they, like the generation before them, will no longer be swayed by traditional celebrities and icons. They will demand transparency and honesty and have the means to find out any deception.
Brands are now realising that if they are going to build Gen Z’s trust and loyalty, they are going to have to start soon. In order to appeal to such an influential market, brands will have to work openly and with an unprecedented collaboration with their target audience. People suspect the most effective marketing will be directed at their core desires for conformity, honesty, and a positive effect on the world at large.
Brands will do well to show ‘behind the scenes’ videos with Vine and Instagram stars. They will have to demonstrate the quality of product and character, with the addition of community programs. It is also suspected that the best marketing practices will be ones of joint operations. After watching the generation before they struggle to find work, Gen Z understands the value of early experience. Some have begun to create their own fashion lines online, giving brands the perfect opportunity to take the emerging brand under their wing and grow together, developing for themselves a spokesperson who is a successful, reliable peer.