Speaking Millennial: 6 Old, Trusted Brands Doing It Right

March 17, 2017 Bethany Johnson

millennial generation

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest I’m not the only one completely baffled by pop culture. Half the time, I contribute to it, sure, but the rest of the time, I feel completely left behind.

Get this: at the end of 2016, one of the oldest, most respected names in culture, the Oxford English Dictionary, added the words “squee,” and “moobs” to its respected register. I don’t know whether to cower or applaud when I see the collision of tradition and heritage with today’s (honestly) weird trends. The millennial generation and its language can be scary, or stimulating, depending on how your brand approaches different communication outlets.

Some companies have such a long, rich history that they’ve become cultural institutions. Are those enterprises honestly expected to learn the quirks of younger generations?

Actually, yes. But engaging doesn’t have to be unnatural. Informal banter with today’s younger crowd is a great way to show you care. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management calls this alignment, and says it’s one of the four pillars a company should erect to build trust in today’s world.

So while time-wizened brands do need to learn to connect, yes, there’s no reason they should adopt a coarse or sloppy tone. Some veteran brands skillfully remain true to heritage while dabbling in 2017-speak. Here are a few examples you’ll doubtless enjoy.


Founded in 1931, Allstate Insurance is one of those brands that seems to have always “just been there” through the decades. But in 1939, Allstate did something no insurer had done before: it customized policy rates by considering consumers’ vehicle mileage, purpose, and age. Since then, Allstate has stuck with what works—like its slogan, “You’re in good hands,” coined in 1950 and determined by Northwestern University’s Medill Graduate Department of Integrated Marketing Communications to be the most recognized slogan in America.

On the other hand, Allstate has responded to cultural trends as they’ve cropped up, embracing them in its content strategy. Take, for example, the celebration of Geico’s gecko and Progressive’s cheeky Flo. Allstate’s snarky answer was a marketing transformation, indeed, when attention pivoted from Dennis Haysbert to Mayhem, the character who couldn’t hide his enjoyment of life’s mishaps. Most recently, Allstate introduced QuickTrip, a mobile app that syncs with users’ calendars to find the smartest route for all those “to-do’s.” In-house, the brand discourages email in favor of Slack, an ongoing group chat. And in describing its culture of innovation, Allstate used a shot of Grumpy Cat to discourage unrealistic expectations.

Brooks Brothers

As tempting as it may be for this brand to target established (read: wealthy) middle-aged demographics and forget the rest, the respected brand Brooks Brothers is as agile as ever. Its RedFleece Instagram account is an insider’s perspective on hot twists that designers put on old, classic Brooks Brothers’ cuts. A closer look reveals Brooks Brother’s super smart Influencers—a category in the company’s online publication, Magazine—which highlights young entrepreneurs to inspire and ignite others. The brand opened its doors the same year the White House was rebuilt after being burned by the British in the War of 1812. Situated in New York City, then, it has stayed true through the implementation of the steam engine, as well as the invention of the typewriter, the sewing machine and camera. The brand saw men and women through the Gold Rush, the formation of the Pony Express, the Civil War, and the invention of the light bulb. To say it’s an institution is an understatement. And yet, millennials are as keen as ever for the Brooks Brothers’ touch.

Brooks Brothers Instagram

Jim Beam

This brand walks a fine line, having been established when George Washington was President. While any other brand of this age would be tempted to push the “young gun” persona, the folks at Jim Beam know better. After all, they do make bourbon. How then, do you use the heritage of the Founding Fathers’ culture to make a name for yourself in the tricky scene of a younger age group? Perhaps the most brilliant on our list, Jim Beam elevates the millennial generation, using social media to show how to infuse culture, history, and grace into today’s more common sweatpants lifestyle.

Jim Beam


Want an example of an old brand that isn’t trying too hard? Neutrogena was founded in 1930, and at one point, employed behavioral segmentation marketing to target consumers who simply wanted the occasional break from their regular hair care regimens. And it worked. Today, Neutrogena draws on the fact that younger consumers equate health with beauty, and delivers both effortlessly. In fact, it seems to expend energy deliberately avoiding fluffy language, instead letting publications like Allure do the heavy lifting for it.


King Arthur Flour

One look at this brand’s mobile-friendly Pinterest-esque blog (smartly called Flourish), and you’ll feel the approval of young moms everywhere. Hip touches include the vintage-cool photographic artistry and real-time chat-with-a-baker option. If that content strategy weren’t enough, the brand offers public and private baking classes from world renowned chefs, which combines the timeless art of cooking with today’s constantly-connected foodie. According to Google, millennials are now in the kitchen more than ever, and there are many mini-crises a brand can help them navigate while there. King Arthur Flour was established in 1790 and, with tactics like these, I anticipate someday teaching my grandkids to bake with King Arthur flour—likely, while using their technology to find recipes.

The New York Times

Think this paper is just a publication? Think again. Every news outlet is a brand, and the Times has one of the most dramatic corporate stories, having begun just before the Civil War. Its founder, Henry Jarvis Raymond, defended the New York Times‘ Office Building against a mob, using rifles and a Gatling gun, in 1863.

The New York Times

As a millennial myself, I see a haltingly excited brand waiting too long to jump onto Instagram, and yet rushing into virtual reality early: an exhibition of the unstable landscape we’re all trying to navigate. It seems, though, the Times is remarkably capable of touching the millennial generation, not because of a fluency in odd hip-talk, but because the team there sells stories that humans of all ages are desperate to consume. We’re as insatiable for the next plot twist now as we were the day the first shot fired at Fort Sumter. And the New York Times is capable of the continual marketing transformation needed to keep up.

Brand loyalty is driven by trust. Learning the language of younger audiences today isn’t a betrayal of your heritage, but the implementation of it. If yours is an older brand, you already have the staying power that a startup can only crave. How, then, will you use it?

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Featured image attribution: Garry Knight

The post Speaking Millennial: 6 Old, Trusted Brands Doing It Right appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.

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