Getting to grips with Generation Y

ann elliott propel newsletter

Friday Opinion – Propel Newsletter – 6th May 2016

Andrew Turner, category and trade marketing director for Heineken UK, was on one of the panels at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers Spring Conference in April, and what he said about the Generation Y/millennial generation was illuminating. He said (and I am paraphrasing) one of Heineken UK’s challenges was being able to really get into the heads of these customers in order to communicate with them because they have to communicate with them in the way they want to be communicated with.


The days of blockbuster, mainstream advertising to do this is over. Now it’s about being local, smaller and personal. In essence, it’s about being there when they want to find you. They will come looking for you – you can’t go looking for them.

So, who are these millennials?

They were born between 1980 and 2000 (although some say 1995) so they are now aged between 16 and 36. From everything I have read from a variety of sources, they are assumed to share some key characteristics – important when marketing to them (if this is the right thing to do). I cannot imagine someone taking their GCSEs this year in Leeds has much in common with a 36-year-old City trader but I am patently wrong. By 2020, they will comprise 75% of the UK’s workforce according to an article by Restaurant Property last August.


In the same article, the authors argued for nearly 50% of millennials, speed of service was the most important thing at breakfast and lunch. This means operators have to ensure their systems and processes are up to scratch, as technology is key in helping them pay quickly and effortlessly. The article also stated: “Although the millennial generation is much more aware of advertising and marketing than previous generations, 66% prefer outlets that are active on social media.”


Social media and the millennials was a subject covered in a presentation at the NRA in Chicago last year, which unfortunately I missed. It was run by Joshua Swanson and entitled Marketing to Millennials. It was very well received by the audience. In his presentation he said this generation was the biggest generation in history, that they visit upscale restaurants once a month in the States, and communicate to others about services, brands and products after an online search via text (44%), social media (38%), instant messaging (38%) and blogging (16%). They think their relationship with technology makes their generation unique.


Swanson describes millennials as the instant gratification generation – 69% think office attendance is unnecessary on a regular basis, 41% have made a purchase on their mobile and 77% participate in loyalty schemes. They will wait two seconds for a video to load – after five seconds the abandonment rate is 25%, after ten seconds its 50%. More than 50% play video games for fun. They put off getting married and having children but that’s not forever. They want maximum convenience at lowest cost.


Not surprisingly, wellness is a “daily, active pursuit”. Swanson says millennials are using apps to track performance and go online to find the healthiest foods. They prefer to eat four small meals a day at unusual times and 68% of them will search online or ask friends for recommendations before choosing a restaurant. His advice to restaurateurs was – be authentic, tell but never sell, give, give and give again, don’t worry – they will never cook like you, social media is a humanising medium so act like one, and what you think is mundane, we think is the story behind your brilliance. I have no doubt Turner has read Swanson’s wise words. I look forward to seeing how Heineken markets to the millennials.


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