29 Aug Why ‘BFF Marketing’ Attracts Millennial Consumers
The landscape of marketing and advertising once so familiar has changed drastically in the last two decades, as technological advances have usurped more traditional practises. Where once the idea of brand loyalty was highly regarded, nowadays there’s more of an à la carte ideology. It’s the age of Millennial’s, who according to most publications take great pleasure in ‘killing industries’. When in reality Millennial’s are just socially conscious consumers and there are many studies that back this up, they expect more from products and from the companies who sell them. Factors considered when deciding where to spend their money are; ethics, transparency and inclusivity (aesthetics are important as well but to a lesser degree).
Many a company has been forsaken for shady practises, sexual harassment scandals and amongst fashion retailers – ‘fast fashion’ which treats employees in a manner verging on slave labour. Documentaries such as Netflix’s The True Cost have illuminated the once shady depths of companies like Zara, H&M and Forever 21 and the backlash has drawn people toward sustainable alternatives. In regards the sexual harassment scandals, one needs to look no further than the ‘#MeToo’ movement and the bankruptcy of the Weinstein Company. Millennial’s have come to expect transparent business practises, they want to support companies that treat their employees well and ideally they should even give back to society. BFF Marketing has been born out of this new inclusive environment. It’s more than just a friendly tone and great visuals, though that is part of it.
BFF Marketing is exactly what it sounds like, it is a marketing style that mimics the tone of a close friend. But that is just the surface of what BFF Marketing achieves. Companies that follow the BFF Marketing format aim to sell more than a product, they sell a lifestyle, a message. It’s an exclusive club you can join, not just an item you can buy. An identity. A community. This is partially why it’s gathering popularity, it inspires loyalty amongst those who aren’t huge fans of brand loyalty. The brand is your friend, the tone of their marketing is familiar, inclusive – like catching up with a friend. The products themselves are accompanied with chatty dialogue and descriptions, they are ever so Instagram-able. “Just because the goal is to drive revenue, doesn’t mean that dialogue has to be impersonal and aggressive,” says Maggie Winter, chief executive and co-founder of sustainable, season-less brand AYR. Which is why a community hashtag is par for the course for any successful BFF brand, so they can find like-minded individuals.
BFF marketers are savvy about these clubs they create, often asking for feedback and advice directly and then actually implementing it in their business practises. Glossier, a makeup company, famously asked their followers to describe their perfect cleanser and created their much-loved milky jelly cleanser from the suggestions.
Influencers are a smart way to tap into this mindset of friendship rather than seem profit driven. They’re more accessible than celebrities, and easier to nab as well. Many BFF Marketing brand scour Instagram for the models they use in their campaign. It’s a win win situation for both. Their respective follower pools will be shared and they will both receive more exposure. Its a bonus if the influencer is actually a fan of the brand as it seems more authentic.
That’s not to say celebrities are not connected with BFF Marketing, one of the most popular brands in this sector is Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP. Paltrow has been known to say about GOOP that she’s “baked into the brand”. GOOP is targeted toward wealthy Caucasian women when it comes to price, to be part of the GOOP girls is a privilege. But their content on the site is free and accessible to all. They often write about the wellness industry and have come under fire for some of their scientifically inaccurate claims, but in spite of this many of their consumers feel they provide a voice to a plethora of worries dismissed by doctors.
Essentially GOOP is selling Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle. She has moved away from the film industry for GOOP and continues to dedicate her time to it – even as her critics multiply on the side-lines. She describes these nay-sayers as ultimately being positives to her business; “I can monetise those eyeballs”. Paltrow’s business sense makes her an admirable role model to many.
Many of these brands are direct to consumer, but that is not a requirement for the form. More important is that the brand is linked to female empowerment, with a female founder and usually CEO governing over the company. As the recent New Yorker article, Indra Nooyi and the Vanishing Female C.E.O. pointed out;
“There are just 23 women with top jobs at companies in the S. & P. 500 stock index. Yet more women than men are earning college degrees, and about as many women as men go into business careers. But, within just a few years, men begin earning more than their female counterparts and start moving up more swiftly.”
With so few females in top positions in business, supporting those who have made it to the top is all the more important to Millennials. Consumers look to them as role models, women who have conquered a male dominated workforce without compromising their ideals. Those who do stray from the ideology have not continued to recieve support.
In the case of clothing company Nasty Gal, BFF marketing worked to a point. Until numerous negative headlines about the founder, Sophia Amoruso, informed her once devoted customers that the ‘girl power’ narrative built up around her was a myth. In the first of a string of lawsuits, Nasty Gal was sued for allegedly “firing four pregnant women, as well as one man about to take paternity leave.” The brand has also stolen designs and used them illegally despite receiving complaints. Amoruso infamously responded to designer Saylor Rose’s claim of copying, saying:“Forgive us for never having heard of you… Congrats, you’ve been knocked off. It’s a rite of passage.”
BFF Marketing has proved so successful, increasing both sales and site traffic that other companies have begun to adopt it. CD Projekt Red, Polish game developer, has recently adopted a myriad of the facets of BFF Marketing in light of their upcoming release of Cyberpunk 2077, a sci-fi RPG. The one major note they are missing is having a female founder, however they still have an underdog narrative in place despite being led by two brothers; Marcin Iwiński and Michał Kiciński. CD Projekt Red came from a scarcity of video games in Poland and a need to translate games for a Polish audience. Now they are one of the most popular and well regarded developers on the market. Often giving away free copies of their games to their fans and creating DLC for free.
They engage with their fans extensively, and through their Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter account have even given them a name – ‘chombattas’. Which is defined in their Cyberpunk 2077 slang guide as “Neo-Afro-American slang for a friend or a family member.” By creating a ‘club’ for their followers they are both receiving free press for their game every time it is used and appealing to peoples vanity to be included in something exclusive.
BFF Marketing is not going away any time soon. Even if it’s not possible to fulfil every tenet of the form just using a few seems to have a positive effect.