Millennials Challenge Marketers

Steve Jobs once said it is really hard to design products by focus groups. Although he said it in the context of people not realizing their needs until they see it, the example is even true with reference to Millennials. A generation that has not seen a fat TV in their home, doesn’t know how a phone could work with fingers rotating on a dial, and has only seen a mobile when it turned “smart”. Their behavior cannot be predicted based on understanding baby boomers or the Generation X. They are a different species altogether largely due to the quadrupling of tech advancements in a short time and making for a very different environment of connections that influence their behavior.

First and foremost they are not homogeneous groups. They fall between 18 and 38 years, which puts them in two distinct stages of life; those of students or early into their careers, and the other set who are getting into family life. Despite this, there are a few traits that bind them and are extremely useful when it comes to engaging with them.

They are all descendants of baby boomers, which make them more affluent early on as compared to any other generation. Baby boomers are essentially known to be a generation that truly created wealth and passed it on.

High Spending Power

Millennials form one third to almost half of the population in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, respectively, and they are more affluent than in many other countries. Along with a high spending power, they also display some common traits in their behaviors. They are very comfortable with digital and technology’s influence on their lives. Of the 6.5 hours spent daily in the digital space by Millennials in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the most time is spent on social media. Unlike the usual belief that social media is for entertainment, it is actually tapped for product information and peer reviews by the Millennials. It is therefore somewhat obvious that Millennials are using digital to do their shopping as well (48 per cent of GCC Millennials were comfortable using digital currency and a far higher proportion than their counterparts elsewhere). A further inspection into their online shopping behaviour shows their top five interest areas, of which travel and food occupy three of the top slots, according to a study by Visa.

This generation has shown unparalleled interest for travel experiences, to the extent that we see a 150 per cent increase in the “instant/tonight travel” phenomenon in recent times, as per a report on “thinkwithgoogle.” Travel-related searches for “today” and “tonight” on smartphones have increased by 150 per cent over the past two years. Their average ticket spend on travel is the highest as well. In this context what comes to mind is a recent experiential activation by Air Arabia along with Careem on Valentine’s day, when they gave three random couples who used Careem a choice to make instant decisions to travel out of UAE for a weekend. The rationale was bang on—to engage Millennials in an instantaneous, adventure travel experience. The challenge for marketers and consultants today is the way Millennials are known to flirt with brands, and everything digital and technology.

This doesn’t give marketers time to validate and deliberate on approaches for too long. The half chances have to be taken swiftly before the trend changes. These make for exciting times, but we get no real help from the distant past to predict what will happen today. Neither can we leave too many lasting predictions for future communication strategists. What happens is in the now, so marketers better notice it in real time, engage and move on.

In other words, welcome to a fluid world of Millennials where rapid change is the only constant.