3 cardinal advertising mantras for Millennials

Advertising Mantras

Dr. Srividya Raghavan is the Chairperson of Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Associate Professor for Marketing shares advertising mantras for marketing to the popularly known as the ‘Me. Me. Me. Generation’.

The generation born in the years 1980-2000 and thus currently aged 17- 37 are referred to as the millennials:A segment of 2.5 billion people (around 30% of the global population) that contribute USD 6 trillion to US consumer spending (more than the GDP of Japan, Germany or UK). A cover story in Time Magazine, dated May 2013, described the Millennials as the ‘Me. Me. Me. Generation’. They were described as highly individualistic people.

In traditional terms, the age-group is so wide that it would be quite ridiculous to segment them into the same group –  but for the one thing that binds them. This is the generation that has not known scarcity of information. They grew up in a world of socio-economic transition that rippled off due to technology development. Information today is laissez-faire.

As the legacy of the industrial era, business and communication models are built an assumption of scarcity of resources. And we do not yet have efficient models that are based on assumptions of unlimited supply of information. This free, unlimited information has made relic a lot of our existing methods of disseminating communication – both in content and form.

The free information, the millennials are free to make sense of – in their own way. They know they are free to interpret it in their own lens. They now have no need or patience for anybody else’s Point of View. Advertising hence cannot continue to influence millennials with its cute one-liners and attention-grabbing tactics and hope to have themselves taken seriously. The millennials may occasionally pat a cute advertising on head for having tried so hard, but will not be impressed.

How then, should Advertising engage, involve and inspire this generation? The millennials will listen only if whatever they hear is meaningful to them. On that premise, let us examine the 3 key mantras for Advertising to Millennials.

Propositions to Conversations

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

Unless the value of information received, far exceeds the need for meaningful dialogue, passive reception of information is Passe’. Millennials are connected to the internet 24×7 through mobile technologies and are conditioned to be active participants in communication. They exercise their power to share and express their voice through active‘word-of-mouse’.

During the IPL-2016, Pepsi launched 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.

Even while advertising today ‘engages’ the new customer through co-creation tactics – the youngest of consumer in the household acknowledges the role of advertising – they know that marketers try to sell. But that’s okey – so long as they are also being entertained or furthering a cause they hold dear.

Social Messaging seems to work – it forces the advertiser to pay for a social change dialogue.Whether or not the brand makes an impact, the message sure does and is appreciated. Take Titan for example, which is a text book case in segmenting, targeting and position – why would Titan move from Aamir Khan’s ‘Be more’ to second marriages of dark skinned women? And why would they expect consumer to make more sense of this social statement than a ‘Be more’ campaign which is ‘bang on’the brand proposition?

Maybe, the millennials whovirtually live second lives on social media, understand self-promotion better than we give them credit for. Maybe, they don’t appreciate self-promotion without a meaningful social role. Millennials are thus in control of what a brand should be doing rather than allowing the brand to tell them what to think and feel.

Ads to Acts

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

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.

Authenticity is best expressed through action –  who the brand claims it is, it has to be. The counter to the Dove’s, naturally beautiful campaigns with the backlash on how the Dove Beauty comes at a cost to the palm trees in Africa is a case in point.

Also Read: Influencer Marketing for Millennials: How to connect with a content hungry generation?

Millennials seek experiences more than just products.‘On-Air. On Line. On Ground’experiential 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.

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 viewagainst examination stress for high school and college students. It presented the brand as a stress-buster and created engaging conversation around this theme.

The surprise element is a rule in communication industry – a decade ago, the advertising industry worried about ‘noise’ that was drowning out their messages and thought that one strategy was to simply ‘out-shout’ the competition. Today,spending money on ‘share of voice’ would only cost money add to the ‘noise’.

One way to warm our way into the millennials hearts is to ‘surprise’ them by helping them relate to the brand story and add it to their own narratives.Why does the message make a difference in their lives? How about tell them their mobile service is important because – ‘harek friend zaroori hota hai’, in their own words.

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.


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Srividya Raghavan
Dr. SrividyaRaghavan is the Chairperson of Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Associate Professor for Marketing. Research interests and consulting areas are in behavioral sciences, focused in experimentation and safe, appropriate analytical techniques. Her academic work experience highlights of 10 years careers including introduction of industry inclusive and innovative experimental pedagogy, development of award winning cases, several awards for research and case writing. She consults with startups and several publications in international and national journals.