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The nub of marketing for millennials

LiveMint logoLiveMint 09-08-2017 Shuchi Bansal

Areport titled The Millennial State of Mind on digital reshaping how luxury is bought, published by online luxury shopping platform Farfetch and management consulting firm Bain and Co., says that millennials is not just an age group, it’s a state of mind that affects consumer behaviour across generations. While that may be true, the report also identifies millennials as those born between 1980 and 1995. Yet others popularly describe those between the ages of 18 and 35 years as millennials.

According to Anisha Motwani, managing partner at marketing firm StormTheNorm Ventures, approximately one in every three Indians is a millennial between the ages of 18 and 35 years. Millennials fall in two different life stages—the carefree college youth (up to 24 years) and the responsible job-seeker with a new family (25-35 years), both sporting different traits, she says.

Marketing to millennials requires an understanding of their characteristics and the fact remains that they are very different from the generation before them and the generation after.

Millennials are a generation born in an era of “want” not “need”, says Alpana Parida, managing director at DY Works, a brand strategy firm. Consumers of this generation have not seen adversity and scarcity of the previous generations. “So the millennials are more optimistic than previous generations, thus less likely to save and more likely to borrow. That is not all. They challenge old beliefs like ‘slow and steady wins the race’ since they are impatient and unwilling to wait,” she says.

According to findings of a Pew Research Centre survey, millennials are described as being “self-absorbed”.

They do not have blind trust in anything. “They need reasons and rationale,” says Parida, throwing up a challenge for brands across products and services. Another trait that stands out among millennials is that they lead a life of extremes—if they work hard, they party hard. They binge watch, they binge drink and they may splurge on some things, Parida feels.

Since they are more amenable to experimentation, brands have to earn their attention. Their buying decisions are likely to be influenced by recommendations on social media. This generation is capable of multi-tasking while watching TV, so advertising needs to work harder with them.

Motwani puts the millennials’ traits in perspective when she says that they long for acceptance. “This generation has a very strong need to be acknowledged, recognized and accepted not just by the peer group but everyone else relevant to their scheme of things. The selfies, Snapchats and Instagrams are only a reflection of this,” she says.

Besides, they are uncomfortable with the tyranny of hierarchy. They would like to work horizontally, cross-leveraging resources, best practices and experiences rather than blindly following top-down instructions.

According to Barin Mukherjee, co-founder of digital marketing solutions agency DigitalF5, unlike other generations, millennials are predisposed to advertising. This makes marketing to them both difficult and easy. Mukherjee says that marketing for millennials is about co-creating experiences and not delivering brand messages. “In any marketing bid, the millennials are very sharp in identifying what’s in it for them. So, brands need to create content that is meaningful to them,” he says. Raj Bhatia, country manager at global loyalty solutions company Aimia, says that millennials see their own comfort with technology as a sign of their superiority. For them, everything is “online”. If it’s not, it may not be worth considering. This is true for new products, deals and brands—almost everything. “If you go by this narrative, it seems it’s quite easy to market to them. Use online media to communicate, stimulate them through video content and offer lots of cleverly packaged deals online,” he says.

But as impatience is one of their characteristics, brands need to connect with them really quickly. And they should have something to take away from it. For instance, a fashion brand will work if it creates and offers them a “look” (what to team up with what) rather than just advertising its clothes/products. “So, add a qualified communication layer to the message. Something they can use in their everyday life—something like a value-add,” says Mukherjee.

Besides, brands need to loosen up a bit. They can use influencers to deal with the millennials. “Hand over your brand to digital influencers as they are relevant to your target audience. An influencer can render his flavour to the brand but keep the core intact. So it is easier for the consumer to accept,” Mukherjee adds.

That is not all. Contextual targeting is very important as they do not want to see the ad in the wrong place. Brands have to be careful not to intrude.

Last but not the least, millennial consumers want to associate with brands with a vision and a purpose. “They look out for value-based and socially-conscious marketing,” says Motwani.

Parida believes that marketing for millennials is not tough. They are described as having low attention spans and being fickle. “They are looking for experiences, they are looking to be engaged and they are looking for relevance. Of course they have more choices than ever before—but you can’t afford to see them as consumers. They have to become your fans.”

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff. Respond to this column at shuchi.b@livemint.com.

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