The Foodie Generation: QSR & Beverage Industry Trends to Attract Millennials

Published by Engagement Labs on November 3, 2015

A lot has been said about the millennial generation over the years. They’ve been described as everything from tech-savvy, to narcissistic, to ‘always on’. One of the defining features of Generation Y that rings very true is their need for authenticity in advertising when it comes to their favorite brands. Millennials can sniff out when a brand is using generic marketing techniques, which can result in their attention turning in a different direction.

Deemed the foodie generation, many of the millennial generation’s favorite brands come from the food and beverage industry. Having recently released our eValue data rankings of the top quick service restaurants (QSR) and non-alcoholic beverage brands in the U.S., we wanted to see what the top brands in the fast food and beverage industries have been doing to attract this generation of social butterflies.

Here are just some of the unique and authentic ways these brands are marketing themselves online to younger audiences:

1. Stepping Back Into the Classroom

We all remember the large amounts of pizza we’d ingest during our college years, seeing as it was an affordable and accessible option for students. Things haven’t changed much as indicated by Pizza Hut’s social media marketing strategy during the start of the new college year.

Placing first on Twitter for our six month analysis of top QSR’s in the U.S., Pizza Hut has targeted the millennial demographic by attaching themselves to such college-centric campaigns such as ESPN’s College Game Day. Going on tour with ESPN, Pizza Hut has been posting content live from campuses across the country during College Game Day and encouraging students to support their school by creating the best sign possible with the hashtag #bestsignwins.

Diving head first into college campuses and events like homecoming catches the eyes of their younger audiences and provides them with the incentive to interact with the brand online.

2. Sharing Similar Interests

While Pizza Hut dominates millennial marketing for QSRs through college-focused campaigns, we saw energy drinks rank high amongst all the different beverage brands measured, such as water, juice and soda, by associating themselves with millennial-centric events and activities such as extreme sports and music festivals.

Approximately 61% of millennials have admitted to being energy drink consumers, which provides major brands like Monster Energy and Red Bull with a key demographic to target. For instance, Monster Energy, which led on Facebook during our analysis, posts video content from their sponsored Motocross events, while Red Bull, first place finisher on Twitter, posts heavily on their feed with snapshots of extreme sport stunts such as surfing, motorcycling, skiing and much more.

Knowing that millennials are seeking experiences and adventures, energy drinks use their affiliations with exhilarating activities to connect with those young adventure-seekers in their online space.

3. Connecting You to Celebrities

Celebrities are a surefire way to engage Generation Y. Growing up in the social media limelight, millennials love being able to connect with their favorite celebrities via social media. 7UP is the perfect example of a brand who uses this to their advantage.

Placing first on Twitter for soda brands in our six-month analysis, 7UP leveraged a strong partnership with popular DJ Tiësto. Setting up an #AskTiësto campaign that allowed users to directly tweet questions to the DJ resulted in numerous younger users engaging with the brand.

7UP also took a page out of Pizza Hut’s books by associating themselves with the Life Is Beautiful Food & Music Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada which featured several famous DJs. Live tweeting and posting content straight from the event, online audiences could feel as though they were at the event alongside their favorite DJs.

4. Friendly Competition

Nothing gets audiences more invested than the promise of free stuff. This is why we’ve seen several of the beverage brands set up contests via social media to generate online fan interaction particularly with the millennial audiences.

7UP leveraged their partnership with several millennial-targeted music festivals, like Hard Music Festival, to offer free tickets to various users through their own “Tweetstakes” that encouraged users to enter the contest via Twitter. Banking on the popularity of music festivals, the brand utilized the potential for free tickets as a way to generate online buzz amongst festival-goers.

5. Creating an Online Personality

With so many competitors battling for the attention of millennial audiences in both industries, brands need to carve out their own identity to stand out from the crowd. Generation Y is more likely to interact with brands who have their own “personality” rather than a bland online campaign.

For instance, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, who placed first for QSRs on Facebook, attached themselves to various holidays such as Halloween and Talk Like A Pirate Day. Using quirky animations of donuts in halloween-themed advertisements and creating short animated videos of a pirate, Hector the Glazed, for Talk Like A Pirate Day, the brand established a fun and amusing persona for their brand, and, as our eValue rankings highlighted, was able to increase engagement among followers.

Coca-Cola is another great example of brand that has personalized their online experience. Placing first for soda brands on Facebook and Instagram during our analysis, the brand continues to create numerous hashtag campaigns that have defined their brand. #ShareaCoke and #choosehappiness are two examples of personal branding that has resonated well with their online fans. As well, they’re not afraid to have some fun with their hashtags, something you’ll see very commonly done by millennials when they post their own content.

The Final Bite

At the end of the day, millennials are a tough audience to sell. They expect a lot from their brands, especially when they can easily turn to a competitor brand if they lose interest. With some of the top QSRs and non-alcoholic beverage brands tapping into the goldmine that is this generation, other brands need to follow suit. After all, millennials will soon overtake the Baby Boomer generation in spending power, at which point those not-so-authentic brands might see themselves way past their expiration date.

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About eValue™:

The eValue™ score measures the effectiveness of a brand’s overall social media performance on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram and provides a score from 0 – 100. It’s the aggregate of the three subscores including Engagement, Impact, and Responsiveness that work together to create one top-level KPI. Our subscores are calculated by using hundreds of submetrics which are then benchmarked against a hand-picked database of 100,000 verified brand accounts on each channel.

Engagement: Measures the level of interaction generated by your content and how well your community reacts to it.

Impact: Measures how many unique users have potentially been exposed to a piece of content posted by the channel’s admin through organic, viral and paid reach.

Responsiveness: Measures the rate, speed and quality of your responses to fans.