In an article published on Mother Nature Network – an online network for news and information related to the environment and responsible living, author Michael d’Estries explained how while most marketing companies were struggling among the wealth of content in the marketplace, six major food brands had turned to a less traditional method of marketing to try to make a connection with the younger generation of consumers. And it worked!

This is the age of the millennials in marketing

In these times when the millennials’ generation (those aged 18 to 34) have outnumbered the baby-boomers’ (51 to 69), marketing techniques are changing, and marketers constantly have to come up with new ways to sell their brands. The change has come from food brands, which are devising novel ways to reach the younger generations of customers. With millennials being now the largest and most influential customer bracket in the United States, the food brands are turning more to relationship building than actually trying to just sell their products. And it seems to be working. Using such words as “authentic” and “meaningful”, the new “storytelling” approach is targeting the millennial’s desire for quality information.

Have a meaningful conversation with your audience

Best-selling author and millennial marketing expert, Michael Parrish Dudell, explained that “more than almost anything else, millennials crave information.” The millennial generation was brought up with unlimited access to information, news, knowledge, data and ideas, and, consequently, often expect more from their favorite brands than the average customer. This has given the brands a perfect opportunity to have meaningful and connecting “conversations” with their target audience.

How the brands make their connections

To look at the ways in which the food brands are attempting to build this new relationship, you need to know the strategy of each one.

Panera: “Live Consciously. Eat Deliciously”

Panera is one of the brands using a different concept to promote their completely natural food. Using a Rube Goldberg machine is nothing new in advertising, but how they are using it is. The use of this deliberately complicated device, is intended to better reflect their normal day, which starts and finishes with the same “commitment to quality food in the community”. The idea is designed to represent the hard decisions and difficult road that the brand is taking in creating really great products. Panera has also extended its original “Live Consciously” advertising campaign with videos that highlight the process through which its products go. The videos feature normal things, from a simple pineapple to sourcing ingredients, to show its dedication to its customers, and its values.

Clif Bar: “Farmers Speak”

Organic ingredients, and the farmers who grow them, is the theme of the latest ad campaign from Clif Bar, the California-based organic food and drink company. Their focus is in combining beautiful simplicity with family values in an engaging, and educating storyline. The first video features an organic oats farm in Canada, and the idea establishes the connection between farmer and consumer. And the millennial generation is more inclined to put their support, and buying power, behind a company that supports “multi-generational” family farming.

Domino’s: “The Pizza Turnaround”

Back in 2009 Domino’s Pizza hit a problem: the quality of their delivery was more famous than the quality of their products. In an attempt to bring about changes within the stale company, new CEO Patrick Doyle made a point of highlighting the company’s most glaring faults and customer complaints. This daring, and seemingly reckless, strategy proved to be the saving grace of Domino’s. Doyle turned the company’s faults into a powerful marketing tool, and continued it with a short documentary about the company’s “reboot”, entitled “The Pizza Turnaround”. Amazingly, Doyle’s tactics paid off, and people saw their once-favorite pizza house going back to its roots of quality food, and resulted in the rebuild of the business. Since the release of “The Pizza turnaround”, Domino’s stock has risen by more than 400 percent.

Chipotle “The Scarecrow”

Following their “food with integrity” slogan, Chipotle went all out to win over their customers’ hearts. Their “Back to the Start” campaign in 2011, featured a sad scarecrow, struck by the harsh reality of the food factory where he worked. The animated short film – with its accompaniment of Fiona Apple’s haunting rendition of the classic Willy Wonka film song, Pure Imagination – ended with the scarecrow opening an organic restaurant. Since 2011 the ad has been viewed more than 13 million times on YouTube and has won several awards.

Honest Tea: “Origins” series

The “Origins” internet series of ads gave the consumers a detailed view of Honest Tea’s international network of organic, fair-trade, farm ingredients. Honest Tea showcased its efforts in fair-trade around the world, from the sugar cane farms in Paraguay to the Indian black tea plantations. The intent was to show the consumer the origins of the ingredients in each bottle of tea. And this approach worked well for them, with an increase in sales in 2014 to over 130 million dollars. Co-founder, Seth Goldman said, “We strive to connect people more closely to the natural world and the communities that produce our ingredients.”

Linda McCartney Foods: “Heart of the Country”

British vegetarian brand, Linda McCartney Foods, in its first television ad for over 15 years, went animated. The one-minute story told of the brand’s core values of environmentalism, animal advocacy and their commitment to “all-natural ingredients”. The ad also featured a song from Linda’s ex-husband, Paul McCartney, and was narrated by Elvis Costello.