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Guest Column : Advertising Mantras for Millennials

Millenialls a.k.a Gen-Y are the generation of people born between the years 1980 to 2000 (who are currently between the age of 17- 37). There are estimated to be close to 2.5 billion people (around 30% of the global population) in this segment and they contribute USD 6 Trillion in global consumer spending (more than the GDP of countries like Japan, Germany and UK).

Millennials have grown up in a world of rapid socio-economic change and alongside technology. A cover story in Time Magazine in May, 2013 described the Millennials as the ‘Me. Me. Me. Generation’. They are highly individualistic and live in an eco-system of deficit and surplus. There is deficit of trust, time, attention and resources. There is surplus of products, goods, services and information

So, how does Advertising need to engage, involve and inspire this generation? Very differently from the preceding generation of ‘Baby-Boomers’. Here is the essential difference in the way Advertising works for these two generations.

Baby Boomers: Brand Talks-People Listen.                                                                                                                        

Millennials: Brand Does-People Talk.                                                                                                                          

Communication from brands with a one-way ‘command & control’ mind-set has given way to an interactive ‘collaborate & co-create’ approach.

In this context, let us examine the 3 key mantras for Advertising to Millennials, in contrast to advertising to the earlier generation of Baby-Boomers.

Propositions to Conversations

One-way proposition based advertising is out. Interactive brand conversations are in.

Millennials are connected to the internet 24x7 thanks to their Smartphones and are conditioned to be active participants in brand communication, rather than just passive receivers. They exercise their power to share and express their voice through active 'word-of-mouse’. They are ‘Prosumers’ who proactively co-create communication with the brands they relate to.

During the IPL-2016, Pepsi did a campaign titled ‘Crash the IPL’, where consumers had to  create and upload their own Pepsi commercials and the best ones were selected and telecast on live IPL matches. The response was overwhelming, to say the least.

Ads to Acts

Self-proclaiming ads are out. Actions which create brand experiences are in.

Millennials seek experiences more than just products. Being highly cynical of advertising they appreciate and connect with brands that ‘walk the talk’ and are authentic in the way they speak and act.

Creating brand experiences, virtual or real, through engaging content is the way to go. ‘On-Air. On Line. On Ground’ integration is the recipe for success.

To address stagnant sales, Gillette Mach-3 did a highly successful integrated campaign- ‘WALS’ (Women Against Lazy Stubble)- challenging the male stereotype of growing a stubble through a combination of social media conversations, Vlogs on You Tube,  on-ground activations and TV commercials.

Repetition to Surprise

Repeating the same old formulae is out. Surprising consumers with fresh, unpredictable ideas is in.

In the information overload world of Millennials, getting noticed is hard enough, getting liked and shared is even tougher. Being predictable, repetitive and therefore boring,is death. Advertising that is out-of-the box is what gets eyeballs and clicks.

The recent ‘# Release the Pressure’ campaign by Mirinda, that broke the mould in predictable soft drink advertising, is a case in point. The campaign took a point of view  against examination stress for high school and college students. It presented the brand as a stress-buster and created engaging conversation around this theme. It caught the eye and imagination of the consumers.  

From a generation that supposedly sees ‘Battery Life and Wi-Fi’ as more important than any other need, may your advertising get as much attention and praise as an average millennial feels entitled to every day.

(Anand Narasimha is a Professor-Marketing & Strategy at IFIM Business School in Bangalore)


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