Understanding the YOLO generation

Millennials have embraced the You Only Live Once mantra.

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Millennials have embraced the You Only Live Once mantra

Millennials are bold, inquisitive, ambitious and adept. If this demographic had the chequing accounts to match, they’d be a marketer’s dream. Unfortunately, they’re totally broke.

Youth unemployment rates are grim (14.1%), and many bright-eyed young graduates will stay jobless and deep in debt for a long time (the average Canadian university student takes 14 years to pay off their loan).

“There’s a sense that the world is not quite as welcoming a place to them,” says Karl Moore, an associate professor at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management and contributor to Forbes. That sense of alienation from the mainstream economy imposes critical consequences on their consumer habits.

Moore says his Master’s-level students, many of whom still live with roommates or their parents, are very well traveled compared to previous cohorts, and more culturally curious. “It’s harder to find a job, so they say ‘Let’s turn a lemon into lemonade and go see the world at least.’ If they come back and it’s a better job market, at least they had a good excuse as opposed to ‘I drank beer and watched the Maple Leafs a lot.’”

“They’re more globally connected because they can be,” adds Carol Phillips, president of American consulting firm Brand Amplitude who, until recently, ran a website called Millennial Marketing. Phillips says envisioning your brand in more “human” terms is the way to engage people who want to spend money but don’t have a lot of it. “Start thinking about what [the brand] would do and how it would behave in the world,” says Phillips. “Offer content to help people do more of what they want to do, as opposed to telling them what brands have to say.” This means skillfully sliding the brand into the millennial lifestyle in a way that seems not only realistic and plausible, but affordable, too.

In that context, Corona’s newest campaign makes a lot of sense. The beer brand scrapped the image of two mature-looking beach chairs in a peaceful, idyllic setting, and replaced it with a 60-second spot that challenges viewers to “live the finer life”—to save the forests, “seek discomfort” and “live free” (that last message displayed via an inner-lip tattoo).

Millennials are confident, creative-minded and “programmed to live with purpose,” says Mike Sutton, managing director at Zulu Alpha Kilo, the Toronto agency behind the campaign. “It’s really more about experiences now than it is possessions and things.” And so Corona needed to weave itself into the experience of a fuller, adventurous life, rather than be the experience itself. “This particular target makes decisions with their heart and their gut versus just with their mind,” adds Sutton.

The millennial mindset is good news for travel companies. Instead of having to slyly plunk themselves in the globetrotter daydreams of millennials, all they have to do is remind young people that they’re there and help them make those travel plans.

Contiki Holidays, which takes 18-35-year-old travelers on group trips around the world, has seen a 20% spike this year thanks to its #NoRegrets campaign. The campaign couples footage of young people having the time of their lives with slogans such as “It’s Time To Start Living” and “One Life, One Shot, Make it Count.”

“What we’re saying at Contiki is that there are so many other options out there,” says Brad Ford, president of Contiki Holidays Canada. “You can experience life through travel.” It’s in those wild worldly trysts that brands can make themselves a fixture of youth culture.

Much like Corona Canada’s “Live Mas Fina” video campaign, Pepsi, too, has gotten in on the business of good times. Its “Live For Now” campaign (which also sported a video of millennials having international fun) encouraged young people to post Instagram photos of themselves in their element. “Whether you’re road tripping, barbecuing, beaching or watching your favourite artist perform live, we want to see the pics!” read Pepsi’s website. The soda brand then put the most exciting photos online, in conjunction with millennial-friendly television networks MTV and VH1. Young people now expect to own fewer expensive material possessions. So, they seek satisfaction through experience.

According to Moore, “the slowed economy seems to be the new normal.” The millennial reality, at least until the job market thaws out, is one of uncertainty. Until things get better for young graduates, tempestuous tattoos or a quick trip to Mexico will just have to suffice.

There’s more! For a dissection of a millennial-targeted ad, check out this article in the iPad edition of Marketing. Subscribe today, or use your existing subscription number to start downloading issues to your iPad’s Newsstand.

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