HBO made news recently by announcing plans to offer its digital platform – HBO Go – as a standalone option for anyone interested in paying a monthly, subscription-style plan similar to Netflix and Hulu. This is significant because it means that, for the first time, customers will no longer be tied to cumbersome, costly Cable TV plans in order to access HBO's content (legally, that is).
HBO's decision to leave the Cable TV monolith behind isn't necessarily suprising to those who have been following the broadcast landscape the last few years. For one, Millennials are fleeing Cable TV en masse and opting for more affordable, flexible options like aforementioned Netflix and Hulu, or set-top streaming devices like Apple TV and Roku. And for HBO, this all amounted to big piles of money being left on the table.
Take their most popular show, Game of Thrones, for instance. It's also the most pirated show in the history of television. Its second season was illegally downloaded 25 million times. An episode that aired on April 30th of 2012 was downloaded 2.5 million times the NEXT DAY. And this was two years ago. What was true back then remains true now, and it's something brands everywhere are learning to reconcile with: Millennials don't have to settle – and they won't.
So what's this mean for your brand? It means that, like HBO, you have to be vigilant, versatile, and a visionary.
Vigilance – There are more ways to reach your unique buying tribes than ever before. Don't feel tied to what you've always done. Seek out new ways to get your brand in front of your target audience. Look at what your competition is doing. Learn from it. Then do something different and better.
Versatility – If a tactic or message isn't working, switch it up. Try something new, learn from it, adapt. The successful brands in today's marketplace are the one's who are nimble enough to shift with changing times, no matter their size. There are statistics for everything in today's hyper-connected world. Use them. See what works and what doesn't. Make changes.
Vision – By simply applying the first two principles in your brand's quarterly planning, you'll be well aware of the trends that will dictate the future in any given market. Being a visionary is a talent, but it's also about doing your homework. And sometimes, it's about taking chances. Do something no one else is doing, and if you're vigilant and versatile as a brand, your risks won't seem like risks.
Brand loyalty is one of the most overused terms in the marketing world, but it's also one of the most important assets to acquire. While most of what I've described above doesn't paint Millennials as a particularly loyal bunch, it's actually quite the opposite. Millennials are the most loyal generation in history. But the thing with loyalty is: You've got to earn it. The Apple's of the world (with arguably the most passionate, loyal fanbase of any brand) didn't get that way overnight. They had the vision to be the first-to-market with a number of game-changing items (iPod, iPhone) and the versatility and vigilance to become more than just a computer manufacturer (all this during a time when Microsoft was content to stick with software).
Success is the greatest deterrent from improvement. But Millennials want more because they can. And for your brand's sake, make sure you give it to them.