FEATURE23 October 2014

Millennial paradox


Young adults – from their late teens to their early 30s – live in a world far removed from that experienced by the baby boomer generation and consequently have a very different view of the world and brands within it. By Jane Bainbridge


And it was this group, and how they view the world and the brands within it, that was discussed at Acacia Avenue’s How Brands Connect with Millennials event held in London yesterday.

Its co-founder and strategist Martin Lee described the paradox facing late teens to early 30 year-olds where on the one hand they are exposed to more options through connectivity but on the other, much of it is out of their reach as they must have realistic financial goals.

“They have become financially independent in the crash, they have student debt, property is out of reach and they’ll be working until they die,” said Lee. The upshot of this rather depressing state is that they understand financial modesty. But, as they also live in a hyper-connected world, they are exposed to a wealth of opportunity.

As a consequence there is a mindset of having to do things for themselves. “The message is ‘look to yourself’; they have less faith in the world but more faith in themselves,” he said.

Millennials are serious, with a more mature outlook than previous generations, and they are also prepared to take a less conventional route through life.

So how does this shift in mindset affect brands?

“Why should millennials listen to ‘old’ brands?” asked Lee. He described a new utilitarianism where this generation is less impressed by the branding and marketing element of products and more interested in what they actually do.

So while pre-millennials (the 40 plus age group) talked about brands such as BMW, Zara, Virgin and Apple in terms of their brand attributes, millennials cited Uber, Barclays, Apple and easyJet for their usefulness, such as the convenience of Barclays and the functionality of Apple.

“There’s a shift; products must work for millennials – it’s not what a brand says about me but what it does for me,” said Lee.