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The marketer-millennial misalignment is real. How should brand marketers get with it?

While millennials become the largest content consumers, here is how you capture their attention:

The marketer-millennial misalignment is real. How should brand marketers get with it?

Tuesday June 13, 2017,

5 min Read

65% of the Indian population falls in the category of Gen-Y or popularly called as Millennials. Given the radically different behavior and consuption patters within this demographic, how is your brand marketing evolving? For those living under a rock, millennials are the group of people born between 1980-1995 and are considered the largest and most-educated generation in our history.

On your way to work or while at the coffee queue, a millennial will be seen wildly engrossed with one particular thing – the smartphone. Life seems exponentially more interesting in these beautiful 6 inch devices which provide infinite possibilities of content, conversations and engagement. With content explosion comes a lot of ads (banners, autoplay videos, etc) too. However, in his/her constant endeavour to close or get rid of the ad, the millenial installs an ad blocker and then consumes content ad-free and guilt-free.


Their choices — whether job or daily brand preferences — are based on a complex accumulation of the quality and credibility of things around them along with trends and beliefs that they form. They have also been tainted with attributes of narcissism, lesser attention spans and non-commitment. Keeping this in mind, it is obvious that the millennial force will not accept anything and everything that’s presented to them. That’s partly a reason why it seems daunting for marketers to approach them but one can’t ignore the conspicuous presence and eventual world domination by millennials. Okay, probably that’s an exaggeration but you get my drift.

India currently holds the position for being one of the largest smartphone markets, implying that most millennials spend more time on their mobile phones compared to TV, radio, and desktops combined. In a scenario where millennials have growing purchasing power and large appetite for fresh ideas and brands they can bite into, we do not see many brands focusing on them specifically. In a recent study by Adobe in India, it was discovered that 86% of the brand managers felt that they have under invested on mobile.

This brings me to two pain points; the decreasing attention span among users and the all-time high usage of ad blockers. With attention span down to six seconds due to digital content overload, more than 40% Indian mobile users have installed ad blockers to stay away from pesky and intrusive ads on their devices. Does that mean they hate ads? Interestingly, a recent study by HubSpot said that 83% users actually don’t mind seeing more ads, if only the intrusive ones were filtered out. Another 63% of them said that most online ads today don’t look professional enough and take their intelligence for granted.

If ads are not what bothers them, what does? It is the intrusiveness that comes along with every website they visit (whether directly or from their social media feeds). Every time we visit a website or open an app, we are bombarded with interstitials, broken ad executions, auto play unskippable videos, and untappable close buttons amongst many other annoyances, which leave no space to concentrate on the actual content. This causes fatigue and creates a bad experience resulting in users installing ad blockers. It is important to understand their needs and give them an option to engage with the ad rather than impose it on them. That’s where interactive and immersive mobile advertising could provide a fresh channel to reach out to the millennials.

Interactive mobile ads can harness the various mobile sensors available to reflect the ideology and key messages of a product/brand. Now if such interactive ads were presented to users in formats which are non-intrusive, catch user attention, have great UX, can be dismissed easily and where it’s a choice for the user to engage at his/her own will, then could we reverse the effect of ad blockers?

An immersive storytelling experience on the mobile enables users to interact and understand the product offering at their own pace while also connecting with the narrative on a personal level. Furthermore, with the availability of augmented and virtual reality features on mobile devices, ads could get users to try on products virtually or teleport users to destinations (inside cars, stores, movie scenes or apartments).

Interactive mobile ads have shown to keep millennials actively hooked with the brand’s narrative for anywhere between 8 seconds to 27 seconds. Compare that to a passive TV or radio ad. This alone reflects the power of an immersive and interactive mobile ad.

For example, recently Reebok ran an interactive mobile advertising campaign for their newly launched Floatride collection. The mobile ad appeared while people were reading content on sports, fashion, entertainment and news. The expandable ad was done in an interesting new mobile friendly format. A lead in message got users to engage at their will. Upon engaging, a full screen ad got the user to take steps to reveal the shoe’s new features with every few steps. Here the brand harnessed the simple pedometer sensor on the phone to reveal the shoe’s features, making the user action contextual to the brand. Over 50,000 users spent averagely over 15 seconds with the mobile ad. When did an ad ever make you walk? This is an interesting example to show the potential of contextual storytelling among masses which are now highly intelligent and astute.

It is time that brands start looking at a mobile-first brand strategy which will enable them to ride the big wave and reach out to the millennials in a relevant manner. All in all, brands need to focus on high quality mobile advertising strategy vis-à-vis repurposing desktop and TV ads to fit mobile audiences. The audience that we speak of are smarter, less tolerant and have ever decreasing attention spans. Are you as a brand marketer ready for them?