x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Folly of youth not entirely as it seems for Generation Y

The millennial generation goes by many names. Trophy kids, Generation Y, MTV generation, digital natives, 8095ers.

Globally, the millennial generation lives in a world where mum is just as likely to be the main bread winner as dad. iStockphoto.com
Globally, the millennial generation lives in a world where mum is just as likely to be the main bread winner as dad. iStockphoto.com

The millennial generation goes by many names. Trophy kids, Generation Y, MTV generation, digital natives, 8095ers.

This is a group of people in which the oldest are 33 and the youngest 18. They have experienced life-defining moments such as the global recession, a massive tsunami and the Arab Spring uprisings. They are adept users of Facebook and smartphones. They will be the first generation that may be worse off economically than their parents. However, they are probably the most diverse and educated generation ever.

Despite what some of us might feel about this generation, we cannot underestimate their impact. They will account for 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2025, even more in the UAE. They influence not only their friends' buying decisions, but, their parents' as well. They have never known a world without the internet or smartphones.

We at the public relations firm Edelman have just completed a global study looking at this group. Across 11 markets, including the UAE, and through over 4,000 interviews, despite the economic challenges this group faces we find that it will drive and be at the forefront of many of the trends that brands, countries and families will experience now and in the future.

Global urbanisation, experiences over consumer goods, and the rise or fall of the "millennial dad" are three of the key trends this group is driving. Millennials no longer want to live in rural areas, and are leading the mass migration to urban centres. Globally they live in a world where mum is just as likely to be the main breadwinner as dad.

And news flash: they don't care about having lots of things. For them, what is more important is the experience of engaging with a brand and that brand providing life experiences beyond a purchase. The cynic could say they want their cake and to eat it as well. They do.

But they want to be involved in selecting the icing, design, source materials, and the naming of that cake.

UAE responders have fascinating responses to the question: "How do you want brands to help you?" Seventy-seven per cent want brands to provide them with financial assistance (such as providing grants and scholarships); 75 per cent said they wanted to be provided with the opportunity for more life experiences (for example, sent on trips, given lessons in something they have an interest in); and 66 per cent wanted to be provided with a mentor who can guide them. The UAE registered only slightly higher than the global average on this question.

And you thought this might just be an exchange of a good or service for a fixed price?

Demanding, definitely. Willing to cut you down to size if you don't give them what they want, to some extent. Most millennials see it as their responsibility to share feedback with brands.

They are more likely to share positive feedback than negative feedback. In the UAE, 81 per cent said they would provide feedback to brands. This group thinks advertising is boring. But sadly, they also are not consuming their news from the paper.

Brands must act and engage differently to get attention and loyalty. We are in an age of surprise and delight. If you don't, they will tune you out.

Parents of this group are probably laughing as they read this, as they think of their child hunkered down with multiple screens open and conversations happening all at once with friends all over the world as they yell just to get their children's attention from 10 feet away.

The research shows this generation will talk to you without the aid of technology. Many marketers think that the only way to reach millennials is through social media. Search engines rule, but then face-to-face communications with friends and family are number two and three respectively. The vast majority of word-of-mouth passing on of information happens offline.

So as you read this column this morning, you are probably chuckling at the folly of youth. Well, don't scoff. Hold that funny thought. Being smart and funny is the way to go. Business may often be serious, but don't always take yourself so seriously.

Plus, you are going to need that sense of humour because Generation Z is now fully formed, and will quickly become the new "it" generation.

Iain Twine is the general manager for Middle East and Africa for Edelman Public Relations