What if millennials ruled the world?

October 1, 2015

Delivering the keynote speech at the launch of a $100m digital bank project, I listened to the strategy to target “millennials”. First up were a range of new savings products, and then a new mortgage proposition … Errrr … do we really think that this new generation have the same needs and aspirations as existing customers (average age 47 years old)? Are we really customer-driven, or just planning the same old thing with a new digital platform?

Millennials – defined as those born between 1980 and 1997 – also known as Gen Y, Gen We, and Digital Natives – are by no means a homogenous tribe, but their attitudes and aspirations are quite distinctive. We recognize many of their traits – passionate and caring, life before work, spontaneity not planning, transient not permanent, global not local, social more than individual. They expect speed and simplicity but with limited patience – everything should work, instantly and intuitively. Especially online. Meaning, mobile.

New research by Goldman Sachs explores millennials as consumers. Everything revolves around them and their friends. Connected by their smartphones and networks. Consumption is driven by time and place, and influenced by others who they trust – advocacy. They prefer access over ownership – renting cars and homes – the collaborative economy. And they live active lives – casual fashion, wellness and sport. They also expect to live in at least 3 different countries during their lives, and likely to move through 7 distinct phases of career.

Additional research by Deloitte focuses on their demands as employees. They want to work for businesses that care, 75% believing companies are too focused on their own agendas. They want more challenging roles, and not to be at the bottom of an age or experience based “hierarchy”. They want to shape business for people like them (although they should remember there are many other audiences to engage too!). They, and particularly in emerging markets, prefer the energy of smaller and more entrepreneurial companies, rather than big global corporations limited by culture, process and size.

Millennials are big on advocacy. When trust in brands is at its lowest ebb, yet trust in peers (friends, colleagues, people like you) is sky high (according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer), advocacy matters more than ever. This is not just a shift from measuring satisfaction to recommendation (or Net Promoter Score), but fundamentally redesigning communications, channels, relationships, and in particular (outdated) loyalty programs. If people trust people, not brands, then their loyalty is to each other, facilitated by the brand. Their impulse to buy is not advertising, but the encouragement of peers, and their preferences and choices are based on stories and experiences of others. Indeed they are more likely to want to share than buy – to share their possessions through rental (Zilok) or repurchase (Bepop), to share their passions through communities and activities. Far beyond a Facebook page, need to innovate marketing to enable people to connect and collaborate and do more.

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