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Marketing to Millennials: What brands need to know

- 8 min read By Gurudev Prasad and Suharsh Dikshit

09 January, 2018

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(*Millennials: defined roughly as those born between early 1980s and the early 2000s)

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1. Millennials look for a sense of purpose- in life, at job and in brands

Unlike their parents who pursued a predictable trajectory- degree, job, marriage, kids, home & retirement, millennials look for higher level needs.

They look for direction and meaning- seeking an interesting mix of altruism and self-interest in life. Hence there is a concern towards bigger issues like sustainability, recycling etc.Enthusiastic, dynamic and raring to go, they are loyal to a job and not the company. An organization that fails to provide them a vision on where do they fit or how will they make an impact, often loses them.

Brands too need to ensure that they generate enough talking points for millennials to buy into them as being businesses with a greater purpose beyond immediate sales. Millennial generation appreciates and values conscious capitalism.

2. Millennials want borderless brand experiences; brands can’t hide behind the narrative of nativity

Millennials are digital natives and digital isn’t confined by borders. Brand stories & experiences easily travel across states, nations and continents and benchmarks are increasingly global.

Also, with increasing international exposure and information availability, there has been an escalation of expectations across categories.Therefore brands need to up their communication & experience game. They need to be cautious that unlike previous generation, millennials won’t be swayed by the emotion of nativity.

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They love their roots, identity and aren’t looking to clone other ‘cool cultures’. But when it comes to brands they judge- both Indian and international brands- on equal pedestal of quality and utility.

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3. Millennials are driven by pragmatism & instant gratification in relationships, at work and in brand choices

Millennials are experiential and avoid commitments. Acquisition is more important than ownership. Hence there is a rise of ‘rental’ or ‘shared’ economy where getting rid of old for new is no longer a taboo.

A broader outlook and need for instant gratification has also led to gradual morphing of established social institutions, roles and norms (gender neutrality in expectations, changing notions of marriage, career trajectory & dating). This is reflected in career experiments and no-commitment relationships.

Consequently, millennials appreciate simplicity and value convenience. To cater to a generation that’s always multitasking and has lower attention span, brands need to genuinely simplify lives and add convenience to be considered.While they continue to seek products that up their social cool, they also pay attention to the value. They are willing to pay a price provided it’s worth the value created. Mere social cool isn’t good enough reason to buy.

4. Millennials live in multiple communities, which influence and guide their choices

Millennials are digital natives and digital isn’t confined by borders. Brand stories & experiences easily travel across states, nations and continents and benchmarks are increasingly global. Also, with increasing international exposure and information availability, there has been an escalation of expectations across categories.

Therefore brands need to up their communication & experience game. They need to be cautious that unlike previous generation, millennials won’t be swayed by the emotion of nativity.

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They love their roots, identity and aren’t looking to clone other ‘cool cultures’. But when it comes to brands they judge- both Indian and international brands- on equal pedestal of quality and utility.

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5. Passions are no longer just talking points, millennials like to walk the talk

Millennials no longer talk about their passions to garner CV points or score quick social credits. Rather, the passion points are more serious and backed by real action.With millennials are increasingly seeking a sense of ‘purpose’ beyond regular 9 to 5 job, it’s not uncommon to invest time, money and effort to live their passions.

In fact many go to great lengths- taking breaks, investing monies and joining groups or forums to fulfil their passions. It’s a common millennial dream to view passions as an eventual source of livelihood.

Brands can benefit a lot by connecting with right passion points but mere lip-service or financial aid won’t do. The brand needs to be a seen as passionate as the consumer to leverage real benefit from association.

6. Ambitious, risk taking and individualistic, millennials value dynamism and are deft in handling ambiguity

Nuclearization of family system and reducing liabilities increases the overall risk taking appetite. Also, being the best educated demographic that lives in an era of numerous possibilities, millennials believe in investing on themselves for their financial security.

Thus financial independence for millennials in its true sense comes a little earlier than their parents. Dynamic and optimistic, setbacks are considered springboard for future possibilities

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In fact, failure is increasingly transforming from a source of shame into a badge of honour. Eventually, leading to a culture where failure is not only destigmatized but also considered empowering.Also, with tech disruption shaking up many traditional industries, ability to unlearn and reinvent is considered invaluable even by the employers.

Kids of knowledge economy, millennials believe in ‘moving up’ rather than ‘settling down’. This also shapes their expectation from the brand messaging.

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