Brands that are succeeding in engaging with millennials

In News by Tom Cannon

Millennial Brands: Vice and Red Bull

Millennials are a hard bunch to please. If something doesn’t catch their eye immediately they’ll scroll on past it like there’s no tomorrow as they continuously check their feeds, take selfies and message friends, family and random strangers. The branding game is becoming a difficult one to win, especially as the young consumer is increasingly savvy about sponsored posts and how and when brands are trying to grab hold of that all-important data. So what are the dreaded pitfalls to avoid? Here are a few dos and don’ts to get us started:

• Don’t be obvious, do be transparent
• Don’t get them to do what they don’t want to, do enable them to interact
• Don’t invade their privacy, do ask for information as some will be willing to give it
• Don’t be predictable, do think outside the box
• Don’t underestimate their knowledge, do treat them as valuable insight tools
• Don’t produce content without researching, do your homework

So what brands are succeeding in engaging with millennials? This time we are looking at insurgent media brand VICE and the action energy drink Red Bull.



VICE has successfully engaged with the core youth sector for years and they still keep getting it right. Their USP is their content. And behind their content is their staff – the majority of which are under the age of 30. The brand is renowned for speaking its mind and covering some of the most interesting, controversial yet current topics of our time. Thinking outside the box is their mantra and ensuring they stand out from the rest is how they stay one step ahead of the game. Can you think of a single direct competitor? Neither can we.

The business  now operates across a number of verticals covering ‘youth passion points’, including music (Noisey and Thump), food (MUNCHIES), tech (Motherboard), art (The Creators Project), sports (VICE Sports) and fashion (i-D). This is a significant expansion from their original magazine offering and it is this adaptability and flexibility that has helped them to thrive in a turbulent media environment.

Arguably the construction of targeted sub-brands under the VICE umbrella is a sophisticated, enterprising and brave strategy that will place VICE more deeply within the lives of millennials.  The approach will work particularly well on social allowing the VICE brand to engage its readership by providing quality niche journalism in a more targeted fashion. The approach could be termed VICE à la carte, enabling those who do not read VICE to engage with content in specific areas of curiosity.

twitter murdoch

Interestingly, VICE appears to be centring future growth on video. with record-breaking YouTube channels and movements into new areas of operation. VICE Films was recently launched with the assistance of Rupert Murdoch and VICE News has significantly increased VICE’s video and news offering. Indeed since launch, VICE News has become the fastest growing news channel on YouTube, reporting from the Ukraine crisis and from the so called ‘Islamic State’, with the resulting powerful documentary garnering 12 million views to date. VICE News also recently launched a partnership with Skype, to draw the channel’s young audience closer to conversations around current events.

VICE is constantly innovating and its new outlets have transformed the magazine into a full media agency capable of immersing itself within the youth audience.

Red Bull


With over 45m Facebook followers and 1.81m Twitter followers Red Bull is a social media champion. Remarkably, this has been achieved with minimal posting about the drink itself. Instead Red Bull’s posts range from comical videos to extreme sports and they receive envious levels of engagement.

The use of stunning image based posts such as ‘Jaws shows its teeth’  keeps millennials talking, tweeting, sharing and engaging with the brand on a constant basis, while Redbull TV allows viewers to enter into the world of Redbull and get an insight into the lifestyle of the brand.

Red Bull has achieved its successful brand position by using action and adventure as its main selling points, the Red Bull story is all about high energy and sharp focus and social media has been the perfect tool to sell this brand identity. Interestingly, this approach has sheltered the brand from any major health scares about sugar content and while this will always remain an issue for millennial consumable brands, Red Bull’s ability to sell a lifestyle and attitude is incredibly effective.

The series will continue with a look at SuperGroup and Coca Cola