Ambika Sharma
Guest Article

Decoding marketing to millennials and Gen Z

Millennials – 18-35-year-olds — are driving and dominating the country’s consumer market, according to a recent report by Deloitte India and lobby group Retailers Association of India. The report, titled “Trend-setting millennials: Redefining the consumer story”, revealed that Generation Y accounts for nearly 50 per cent of the working-age professionals in India. Then there is Gen Z — the successor to millennials, who possess a very distinct set of tastes and preferences.

While millennials and Gen-Z demonstrate different characteristics, the two generations also share some similarities. The most prominent of which is their sceptical and feeling-first nature, among others. In departure from their previous generations, they don’t fall for celebrity endorsements or sponsored posts on social media. It takes a lot more than a simple TVC or a print ad to tap into this rewarding yet difficult demographic. So how do brands attract millennials and Gen Z? The answer is simple: modern consumers call for a new-age marketing approach. In today’s era of fleeting digital memories, the trick for marketers is to pique the interest of this powerful audience.

Content is king, but only when it’s honest

While marketing has continuously evolved throughout the years, content continues to hold the same importance. However, we are now amidst an excess of content, which makes it particularly difficult for brands to create content that endures. Taking cue from some of the most trustworthy brands, it is honesty and transparency that appeal to millennials and Gen Z.

An animal rescue campaign by a cosmetic brand that tests its products on animals is bound to fail in the age of ‘conscious consumerism’.

Personalise, personalise and personalise!

Personalisation has become the buzzword of the 21st century. Millennials and Gen-Z don’t respond to marketing messages that fail to resonate with them personally. Unlike baby boomers and Gen X, these people demand personalised experiences that specifically cater to their needs and wants. This is, perhaps, why modern marketers have done away with the one-size-fits-all approach and replaced it with carefully, curated unique campaigns. Take, Coca Cola, for instance. In 2011, the soft drink giant introduced its now-famous ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, in which each bottle contained one of the most popular millennial first names.

Technology as an enabler

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are among the emerging technologies that are transforming the marketing landscape. According to an Adobe 2018 research, top-performing companies are twice as likely to invest in AI for enhancing their marketing efforts. With strategic use of data mining technologies, marketers can have direct access to digital natives, who share enormous amounts of data online. Outdoor clothing retailer, The North Face, has integrated IBM Watson’s cognitive computing technology into its app to help shoppers find the perfect jacket. The AI asks questions, such as where, when and what activities they will use the jacket for? Based on the information, it then narrows down the search, bringing a whole new level of convenience.

Mobile-friendly and shareable

Millennials and Gen Z are always glued to their smartphones and tablets. A slew of research shows these generations check their mobile devices as many as 40 times a day. Their over-indulgence in smartphones and social media presents massive opportunities for marketers. In fact, it has been observed that content that is compatible with desktop and mobile is more likely to be re-circulated. Off late, some brands are even focussing on smartphone-only marketing. Flipkart’s decision to go app-only in 2015 would be a great example in this regard.

Co-creating is more effective than outbound push

Both millennials and Gen Z want to be heard. And, co-branding provides them the platform to voice their opinions and views. On the other hand, brands get the opportunity to create more engaging content that actually appeals to their target demographic. Some of the best marketing campaigns in recent years have seen a brand taking help from the audience. By being involved with a brand directly as part of their initiatives, millennials and Gen Z feel a sense of control, which helps in increasing brand loyalty. Essentially, it’s a win-win situation for both. Denim brand, Levis used social media to encourage customers to add a unique touch to their classic pair of jeans.

Add that fun factor

A marketing campaign that lacks the fun element makes little to no impact on a younger audience. Offering something that screams ingenuity and quirkiness is the key to surviving the content explosion today’s world is witnessing. This is perhaps why HDFC Life took the funny route to reach out to millennials and Gen Z. The leading private life insurance company in India, teamed with three stand-up comedians who made jokes on ‘Bad Investments’. This campaign received an overwhelming response on social media, making it an instant hit.

Take a stand, bring a change

Millennials and Gen Z are probably known as the most vocal generations. They root for causes they believe in, and are ready to walk the extra mile. This calls for brands to make campaigns that really matter. Airbnb has gone to great lengths to demonstrate just how in tune with the concerns of the young population they truly are, and it has certainly paid off. The company aired an ad named “We Accept”, which showed different nationalities coming together to ask the world to be more inclusive and open. The campaign certainly won applauds and profits.

Harnessing the power of peer influencers

The increasing popularity of ‘peer influencing’ is a clear indicator that millennials and Gen Z will trust a certain brand if it’s recommended by people they trust. Instead of direct advertising, they tend to believe their peers and seek their advice. This may be driven by their inclination towards products or services that caters specifically to people in the same age group. Capitalising on this trend, marketers are turning to peer influencers rather than large influencers who may not be relatable to the larger group of young population. Tinder launched its Campus Ambassador program, Tinder U for better community engagement.

Ambika Sharma is the founder and managing director of Pulp Strategy Communications - a full services creative agency.