As millennials have grown up in a world with search, mobile devices and social media, these new consumers are driving demand for all types of new and innovative products, services, technology and content. Their numbers are staggering as the size of the millennial consumer base in China alone outnumbers the entire population of the United States.

After decades of brand and product advertising, most brands and products have little mystery or appeal to consumers, especially the Y-generation or millennials. They have little patience for exaggerated forms of advertising messaging, as they can find out the truth about a brand online via Google or via their friends.

The sad truth is that such consumers trust search and friends not brands, because age-old advertising has drifted too much from brand and product reality.

Brand reality

To appeal to these consumers, brands and advertising professionals need to inject much more brand reality and emotional triggers, as well as considering media.

According a 2012 McKinsey study, this new emerging millennial middle class are far more emotional in the way they spend and brands needs to refine their marketing strategies. Brands must shift their own marketing strategies to keep pace with them.

Replacing a more cost-conscious frugal generation, McKinsey stated that this 400-million-strong mainstream consumer class is by far more self-indulgent, individualistic and will form 51% of the urban population in China by 2020.

For them to consider a product, millennials have to first endorse the activities and beliefs of the brand, and they prefer brands with an emotional mission who give back to society. A June 2013 study by Telefonica in Spain revealed this consumer segment in China and the rest of the world remains most optimistic and supportive of brands and causes to better the world.

Advertising reality

Being real about what the brand is and what its product does is a given. Based on Daniel J. Edelman Group’s constantly updated 8095 global millennial studies, millennial consumers are heavily influenced by search, social and peer-created content about brands and products they prefer. They are also consuming such content on mobile most of the times, while imposing and influencing their brand preferences on their friends, families and even their elders at home or in the office.

Thus a new advertising reality has emerged for brands wishing to target millennial consumers born from 1980s onwards in China. According to an Accenture’s 2017 shopper study, 70% of Chinese Millennials and Gen Z consumers prefer buying products directly via social media over other channels. The global average is 44%.

These Chinese millennials experience online, mobile, social and outdoor advertising and content marketing on their mobile devices almost all at the same time. Chinese in their 20s and 30s are the driving force behind ecommerce platforms like Taobao, while integrating it with the in-store shopping experience i.e. O2O or online to offline.

This has created two types of shopping behavior in China.

“Showrooming” is a millennial consumer trend where customers visit a store to check out what they want, then go online to find out more and buying the product via ecommerce.  There’s also “webrooming” where millennial customers read every available online source and ask all their friends before heading to a store to make a purchase.

Merging expertise

Such choice, convenience and easy access via mobile and internet shopping means that people can browse online even within stores, for price comparisons and for making purchase and delivery decisions.

And that’s why marketers and agencies have to merge expertise and ideas for branding, retail marketing and social media engagement in order to survive in this new China consumer landscape. If not, they may soon reach their Kodak moment.

If you are keen to know more about launching your brand in China via digital marketing and ecommerce, please check out Econsultancy’s courses, as well as my recent presentation in Singapore on social commerce in China.