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Reaching Out To Millennials, How Brands Can Get It Right

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By Themba Nobanda,

East Africa is a region where millennials (18 to 34 year olds) constitute more than three quarters of the entire population. It is thus important for most brands to win over this segment of the society to achieve sustainable growth. The major challenge for most brands today is how to reach and engage this particular age group given their apparent apathy to marketing material coming their way and their reliance on technology that makes traditional communication channels somewhat obsolete.

The technology revolution that has occurred in the past decade, can be argued to have created the widest generation gap between this generation and older segments in society since the industrial revolution. There is a general lack of comprehension on the market needs of this segment with most marketers coming from an older and different generation. Whilst there are some existing studies that provide insight into millennials, most of these strategies are formulated in The West where elements like diversity of cultures are less pronounced making the ‘one size fits all’ solution not sufficient in the African continent.

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One of the main differences between this generation and earlier age groups is that they are more connected thanks to a wide range of devices and availability of broadband, and so their concept of conversation, friendship, socializing is very different. This is a generation where various individuals like Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian have more influence than presidents and the their endorsement of a product via social media may have  greater impact than advertising on prime time news.

Millennials live in a world of limitless possibilities. The idea that one can speak to the President of the United States from a remote village in Kenya via social media and receive a reply, opens doors and opportunities which were earlier deemed to be an impossible dream. In fact, it is arguable that this generation has the best opportunity to leap frog the rest of the world as technology has removed hurdles that have been seen to pull the African continent back such as physical infrastructure (roads, rail, ports).

Motivated by a mix of circumstance and opportunity, millennials show much less reliance on governments and corporations to help them solve issues. The result is a generation of young Africans that is showing greater creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship than ever before. Uganda, now ranked the world’s most entrepreneurial nation, also has the world’s youngest population. An often murmured Luganda expression ‘Twakowa tusaba government etuyambe’ (literally: we got tired of waiting for government to help), reflects the disappointment in a government but simultaneously expresses the sense of self-reliance that is spurring them to get up and make things happen for themselves. ‘The Hustle’, is a phrase used often by young Kenyans to refer to the economic struggle of making something out of nothing (as it were). It has become common language in Kenya, where unemployment is at its highest ever and 5th highest in the world at 40 per cent, but shows the resilience and determination to succeed that is core to the ‘yes we can’ attitude of millennials.

Brand managers/Marketers/Agencies need a new mind set

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Gone are the days when advertisements and promotions were created to talk to the audience. Successful brands of the future have to be humbler and prepared to talk with (not to) their audiences. This generation is motivated more by conversations and peer to peer referrals than ever before, enabled by the speed and frequency of communication that digital and social media have created. In this new age the tables have turned from brands leading conversations to consumers spearheading them. While this might pose a challenge, with the right tools this is also great chance for brands to reach an audience that knows no borders and the potential customer base is not limited by geography nor currency in the advent of digital currency.

To get to millennials, agencies need to come up with ideas that go hand in hand with the brand strategy applying a more creative approach that invests more in agile tactical marketing to stay relevant and be in the right conversation at the right time. Tools such as the Consumer Connection Survey (CCS) by Dentsu Aegis Network East Africa set to be launched in Kenya in April 2017 can allow brands make decisions based on data based analysis which has been lacking in the African continent.

Social Media

Tools such as CCS that research social media behavior to understand sentiment offer a three-sixty-degree view of what consumers need enabling brands to communicate better with them. With data strategists working closely with brand managers, there can be better use of insights generated by such tools to create communication that resonates with millennials. As many pundits will attest, brands that are getting traction in the market place are those that understand social media. Many successful new businesses have been launched and built on social media way before getting on to traditional media. Yet older and more larger organizations are finding it more difficult to adapt.

The role played by social media in creating or destroying brands is bigger than ever before and will only continue to grow in significance. Studies have shown that seventy percent of people are likely to look at online reputation of a product like an app on the app store or a hotel/destination they plan to visit. Social media peer to peer influence is construed to be more believable than traditional advertising creating an increased need for brands to team up with influencers.

Analytics software such as CCS Planner provide solutions that enable more impact through well placed and timed campaigns like pop ups or posts to a segment tailored to their tastes and preferences. With these tools, brands can target consumers specifically interested in what products they sell meaning a company like General Motors only advertises to clientele that is specifically interested in cars at that time. Using such analytics brands can also effectively monitor and evaluate progress and adjust campaigns as and when necessary to optimize their performance. The new age requires, new thinking and new tools. Opportunity in 2017 and beyond belongs to the innovative.

The author is the Client Service Director at Dentsu Aegis Network Sub Saharan Africa

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