Marketing to Millennials

Love them or hate them this “rebellious” group of individuals lie between the ages of 18 to 34; and constitute the most diverse, apolitical and tech-dependent generation in history.

Millennials have come of age during a precarious time of epic technological change, disruption of traditional businesses and the democratization of commerce. With a generational group so diverse, stranded on the shores of a transient business environment; marketers will quickly have to understand, how to tap into this growing economic segment.

 By 2025 millennials will account for over $8 trillion, making it the most significant market segment

To understand the millennial better, let’s take a peek into their collective mindset. A non judgmental look at their traits may give us a better understanding into their motivations and subsequently business models, that cater to those underlying traits.

A study on Millennial Traits globally (various sources)

The graph summarizes 15 key facts, that may well be an indicative blueprint, on how marketing strategies will need to evolve in the future

While each of the findings holds a lesson to be derived from, below are a look at 4 traits that I found interesting.

1) Willingness to invest in assets

The traditional idea of financial security involved, building a portfolio of safe investments that would appreciate over time. You went to college, got a job, bought a car, got married, bought a house, had kids, saved money for their education, put some aside for a rainy day….and life went on.

This consumer framework loosely existed, for much of the 20th century and thus marketers had enough time to develop products; marketing them to customers at predictable intervals of their lives.

Today, with less than 15% of millennials willing to invest in major assets, it’s easy to misunderstand them as a bunch of footloose and fancy-free gypsies. One must however, bear in mind, that millennials carry the highest debt compared to any other generation in history. Truth is, millennials grew up in a world of debt – most of which wasn’t even of their doing. Add to that a shrinking global economy, financial collapses all over the world and insane student debt levels, it’s no surprise that their purchase priorities are completely different from that of their parents.

Marketers and Innovators who have been able to disrupt the rent versus own model are the ones that will define the future.

Businesses like Uber, AirBnb, Netflix, Zipcar, reveal just the surface – of a fast emerging shared economy.

2) Brand Loyalty

The fact that only 31% of millennium seem to be brand loyal, may frighten some older marketers. However, the state of consumer’s hearts may not be as dismal.

Brand loyalty could strangely be seen a fundamental human characteristic. As human buyers (with emotions of course) we will always want to associate with people or companies that give us a sense of belonging, a feeling of safety and a relate-able vision.

So while less than 31% of Millennials claim to be brand loyal; the concept of consumer loyalty will always remain; the variables of the loyalty equation will change.

It will probably take more than just being a big brand with in your face advertising, to stay relevant and adored amongst the millennial masses.

Below is a brilliant all in one illustration by Bain & Co, which I think, is the new customer value pyramid

3) Casualization

Millennials are casual and these numbers will keep growing!

They prefer comfort dressing over stuffy suits, they prefer spending on experiences over assets and are OK with shortening age old English words, to be more efficient and useful in their tech driven lives. (OMG right!)

These may be reasons as to why, we are seeing a shift in mainstream design. An iconography of information, a mass movement towards lighter pastel colors, even established logos moving towards more casual typefaces………………………………….. casual will become the new formal.

4) Self Absorbed

In an age where the “selfie” is an actual word, let’s not kid ourselves and think that the world cannot get any more “self-involved”.

Here lies a huge area to market products aimed at individuality. Vivo Mobiles in my opinion ran a brilliant campaign, marketing their selfie-based phones with the line “This is not a selfie this is myself”. I think, this brilliantly touched upon that need of self-absorbance, in a strangely tasteful way.

Good v/s Bad Marketing


In the world of Marketing Communications, (fondly referred to as MARCOM) an advertiser’s success lies in finding – that delicate balance between: brilliant & bizarre, between just right & too much and between engagement & encroachment.

MARCOM is both a science and an art; one that requires Goldilocks type precession and Gordon Ramsay type work ethic – to get just right.

As technology continues to evolve, advertisers keep finding new channels to advertise and improve campaign analytics.

As incredible and cost effective, these new tools are for the modern marketer, they also aid the less professional ones; who’s singular focus only seems to be on their crusade for new customers.

Below is an | A to F | list of bad marketing practices, that sadly we can all relate to.

A | Annoy

When the world was a simpler place, advertisements registered in people’s minds as they simply weren’t so many! According to a 2017 CBS report, it is estimated that we see an average of 4000 ads a day! With the so many technological tools available to advertiser’s today, one wonders why some companies (and not just the shady ones) continue to bombard people with ads that are often so irrelevant to our needs.

B | Become a pain

The 4 P’s originally started out as a framework; for marketers to inform and take products into market…. so the spray and pray method kinda made sense then.

Today, the world is a different place. Thanks to the internet, brands fiercely battle for prized real estate in our inboxes. This became so much of an annoyance, that some governments have now made it mandatory for marketers to include a working unsubscribe option at the bottom of every e-newsletter. With so many choices out there, people will keep turning a blind & resentful eye, to newsletters that are impersonal and irrelevant.

C | Con customers

Whether at the mall or shopping online, we all have come across offers that seem…..well more fishy than fabulous. Now I’m not implying that genuinely good deals don’t exist; but a few rotten ones always manage to find their way into our lives. Throughout the Middle East I have seen, well-known designer brands selling “luxury clothing” at a perennial 90% clearance sale. While this may be a successful marketing ploy in the short term, such companies will probably erode their own brand value over time.

D | Disguises intent

When a company sponsors a social initiative that they truly believe in, amazing and powerful things happen. While many companies are starting to take on issues like climate change, pollution and wellness seriously; there will always be a sponsored group of volunteers on the news, rescuing wildlife from an oil spill….. that the very same company caused.

E | Encroaches on privacy

From advertisers to the government, the movie Snowden showed us how much user data is collected and stored every second. What’s scarier, is that numerous websites that we all use, have been found to have shared or sold user data to 3rd party advertisers.

Not a huge fan of that like button anymore!

F | Fakes awesomeness

Cigarette makers, Sugary beverage manufacturers, Oil & Gas behemoths are just a few examples, of industries that are known to use media to influence their brand’s perception. With traditional media houses such as newspapers and magazines struggling to keep afloat, corporate advertisers use their financial power to publish articles that are essentially advertisements disguised as unbiased editorials. In a world where social media has become an aggregator of consumer voices, I hope dishonest press releases are called out more often by the masses.

Santa’s 7P’s of Marketing

Santa’s 7 Ps of Marketing

Love him or hate him, Santa Claus is one of the most recognized and loved brands in the world; one that children have adored and parents embraced for centuries.

Lets take a minute and look at what marketing lessons one can take from this cultural icon.

Stick with what customers recognize

See a man on your roof, trying to squeeze himself into your chimney, and you’d probably call the cops….. unless perhaps he’s dressed in a bright red robe.

(Either way, you are better off informing the authorities)

Santa would not have been Santa, if not for his distinct red robes, flowing hair and big white beard.

This consistent portrayal of Santa’s image over the years, has engraved a representation into our minds;

and as a result, lead to a subconscious association with Father Christmas.

Brands who have stuck to their CORE branding styles and brought about incremental changes to their corporate persona are not surprisingly – some of the most valued brands.

I’m not saying that rebranding or changing marketing styles is wrong, but it makes better sense to make something that works – and then sticking to it.


2) Planting: Design an experience

Multiple brand touch points across multiple platforms

Have you ever wondered, what it is that we really love about Christmas?

The smell of freshly baked Christmas cookies, twinkling Christmas tress all around, the sound of carols in the air, kids lining up at a mall to sit on Santa’s lap,

the promise of gifts or sipping a hot glass of eggnog on a cold winter’s night ?

The answer is – All of that and much more, for Christmas has become –

a distinct multi-layered experience.

Marketing is first about creativity and then about experience extension.

The digital age has brought in platforms that help carry over the brand experience in new cost effective ways.

Strengthen your brand by standardizing email signatures, creating unique storefronts and hey, maybe even have a “corporate cologne” that the team wears when they interact with customers.


3) Plug in

Always sell a promise, the product will sell itself

So how did this fictitious character earn his celebrity status?

Simple, great “word of mouth marketing”

Children eagerly anticipate the coming of Christmas, not just for the gifts – but for the “experience ecosystem” that surrounds Christmas.

Coca Cola (Drops of Joy), Panasonic (Ideas for life) and Red Bull (Gives you wings) spend millions of dollars to put their brand vision out there – just to sell that experience – and it works !

Marketers don’t always need to sell customers a solution. (Dont sell Coke as a refreshment or Red bull as a drink to help you stay awake at work)

Customers like to figure out solutions themselves, and are more likely to connect with an inspirational story that surrounds a product .

Effective Marketers Are Storytellers

As advanced as we think we may be, our fundamentals haven’t really changed.

We still all need love (online or offline), need a sense of purpose

and love a good story!



4) Planning : Really know your customers 

Everyone knows that Christmas Eve is Santa’s night to shine.

But what we forget is how much planning and strategy go into making that night a major success.

It takes an entire year of preparation to get things right !

Santa reads letters from children and painstakingly makes a list of what each child wants for Christmas. His methodical approach is what makes sure that each child gets what he wants. Santa listens – He doesn’t ASSUME

Effective Marketers Make No Assumptions

As the candid saying goes, Assuming makes an ass out of you and me ( ass-u-me) History is full of examples, where brands failed to understand their customers.

People don’t really question their own assumptions and most professional marketers often “jump the gun” spilling out a solution based on what

think they customers want”.

Even companies like Apple have had their fair share of failures, driving them to near bankruptcy – see some of them here

So start listening and taking notes in finding

out what your customers really value…. you may be surprised by what you find

(Ads that probably sounded good at a marketing meeting !)


5) Promise : Market what is true

If you don’t – your competitors will

As kids, we woke up every 25th morning and found gifts under the Christmas tree, a plate sprinkled with cookie crumbs and an empty glass of milk – all bearing witness to Santa’s late night visit. This was true every year despite extreme weather conditions, dad losing his job, moving to a new house, or the ever increasing visa requirements (if you lived in the Middle East)

Santa was the epitome of reliability! And thus earned a special place in our hearts.

Business and brands are no different…Except unlike expectant children, customers have expectations every day.

Successful marketing strategies are those that reflect the truth about a business and its vision. Not lofty claims that suggest that their own brand sits on the throne next to the mighty Zeus on Mount Olympus.

Customers are more likely to believe and stick to an honest brand, simply because they never feel that they were cheated or lied to.



6) Profiling: Clear Target Segmentation

Long term marketing success focuses on a niche

The fact that everyone LOVES Santa but not everyone BELIEVES in him, is in itself a testament to the brilliance in how the “Brand Santa” is sold.

Most of us believed in Santa when we were kids and continued to love him – despite growing up. Products are no different and the secret to creating that mental stamp, is appealing to the right customer at the right time.

Even fairly generic products (such as bottled water, soft drinks and telecom providers) have realized the importance on selling their USP to a niche versus the broad – miss and hit approach.

Identifying your main audience minimizes misunderstanding and helps deliver

High-value information that THEN stimulates a customer to go and take action.


7) Partners: Build Relationships

Santa wouldn’t be Santa without his team of elves and trusty reindeer?

Do you think he’d be able to read all of our letters, be painstakingly reliable, or jolly and delightful if he didn’t have a team to help him with all his Christmas responsibilities?

Of course not, just like Santa, marketers need to develop relationship with suppliers and their customers alike –

No one ever built an empire alone…

Great marketers focus on building a relationship to have trust, admiration, and credibility that extends beyond business transactions.

Not to mention people will buy more and refer to from those they like and trust.


Inside each of us is potential
Potential, that goes unexplored;
For which we blame circumstances…
To justify opportunities ignored.

In a life consumed with distraction
It is especially easy to forget;
Our time here is limited…
Mediocrity is our threat.

Remember that the world is eager
For value, you could create;
It’s store of wealth is limitless…
It’s needs for ambition are great.

The best books haven’t been written
The best races haven’t been run;
The best things haven’t been made yet…
Great victories are yet to be won.

So the next time you sit wondering
Saying there’s nothing more you can do;
Remember, every choice has meaning ..
It all comes down to you.

Marketing then v/s Marketing now