Marketing is child’s play; you just have to give consumers what they want. What adds complexity to this is that you have to deliver it before your competitors, and in a surprisingly relevant way. This is what the big brands have managed to do, and is the secret of the success of the big companies we all know. We call it "consumer insight": the ability to capture that key element that motivates people to buy, driven by needs that are so strong, real and extraordinary that even consumers feel surprised that the brand has been able to discover them. Coca-Cola offered happiness every time someone opened a bottle; Benetton made it easier for people to be different; Rolex provided status to an ambitious yuppie. None of the consumers of these brands bought a refreshing drink, a woolly jumper, or an accurate watch: they bought permission to satisfy their most intimate needs.
For decades, after brands identified an insight, they followed a linear process through several steps. We called it A.I.D.A. = Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. But this process no longer works. It has become very hard to find new needs, reaching some audiences is complicated, and being relevant to everyone is close to impossible. Now, four generations of people with very different values and different shopping and media preferences live alongside each other. The Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Centennials are completely different from each other, making mass campaigns less and less effective.
Millennials and centennials are creating new patterns of consumption, new patterns of choice, new ways of using media, and new ways of relating to brands and advertising that we can no longer underestimate. We have the future in front of us: in fact, millennials show us the next “new normal”. The younger generations tell us we must change and they can teach us how; they have a STYLE that will model tomorrow's consumer value system. This stands for Social, Transparent, “Yes, now!”, Liberty and Experience.
Today in Italy, millennials (aged 20-34) and centennials (10-19) include over 16 million individuals and represent a quarter of the population (16 percent millennials, 9 percent centennials). In 15 years' time, what we call “new generations” (born at the same time and after the millennials) will be half the population, rising to 73 percent by mid-century.
Understanding these new generations, their values, their styles of communication, and their expectations of brands is therefore urgent if we are to truly embrace change and become effective once again.
The STYLE value system of millennials and post-millennials, their system of expectations, leads us to rethink the way we approach marketing. TV-centric marketing, focused on generating awareness and brand associations for consumers to remember until the moment of purchase, well represented by the AIDA model, cannot cope with the current level of complexity and opportunity. Instead, the Millennial Big Bang, transforming society's system of values through its young people, involves the entire system of marketing planning and its goals, leading to a transformation that is much wider than just technological and digital.
The Post-Millennial Marketing Model stems from the STYLE values: it is a marketing planning framework that embodies emerging values in communication and brand-consumer relationships. It therefore adopts the principles of communication used by these new generations. It stimulates us to think and act like millennials, in a social, reactive way, focusing on the content, the service, the experience, and generating value for individuals and for others.
Post-Millennial Marketing is based on six pillars, which are not steps to be followed one after another, but activities to be conducted together: Post-Millennial Marketing is more than a process, it is almost a mantra.
- Listen to markets: pro-actively listening to the markets and consumers; seeking out consumers and their expressions in the myriad touchpoints available to them; switching from listening in order to reply, to listening in order to understand.
- Pop-up in moments: identifying and taking part in important moments for the consumer, without shooting at random, recognizing the specific moments, situations and opportunities that will gain attention and will be relevant.
- Surprise with content: create surprise, standing out from the crowd and helping the consumer see beyond suggested and pre-coded choices, combining engineering and creativity to deliver high-impact content.
- Facilitate action: making the objective of marketing activities explicit, helping the consumer, and being accessible and supportive whenever they need assistance.
- Enrich experience: amplifying the individual pre/during/post-purchase experience, using all the touchpoints capable of affecting satisfaction and reputation – and not stopping at the point of sale or the end of a campaign.
- Connect with brand purpose: reconnecting all the touchpoints and individual experiences with the brand's universal values, its identity and the role it wants to play for the consumer, gaining strength from fragmentation thanks to the systematic uniqueness of the brand's values.
The Post-Millennial Marketing Post model is a vision for the near future, an exhortation to take immediate steps towards more contemporary, relational, and more effective marketing. It is fair to say that technology today does not allow for the total application of the model, as it is now available for six-step execution almost exclusively in digital environments. What we can do, however, is get to know our targets more accurately, going beyond stereotypes, and adopt the Post-Millennial model when planning, developing marketing strategy and designing its implementation.