I’m proud of my age and the generation I belong to. That may be something unconventional to hear from a person who is at the tail end of the age range that defines the millennial generation. But I am. I’m grateful to have been born at the time that I was, and relieved to have grown up in the age that I did.
A piece I read a few years back has given me perspective on what it means to grow up in the '80s and '90s. It celebrated the fact that I belong to a generation that experienced the analog, and have successfully transitioned to digital.
Growing up in the analog world meant Saturday afternoons watching The Justice League on Channel 9. It meant knowing that it was 3 O’clock whenever we saw the image of Christ with a burning heart on TV. Sunday afternoon strolls were with family in Virra Mall or Quad. My experiences in the analog world were shared by practically everyone else in my community and age group. I could take comfort in knowing that whenever I’d meet someone my age, I would refer to these experiences to easily jumpstart our friendship.
Having lived in a world sans WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, or even SMS, I have the skills to survive if any of these technological conveniences fail me. I would just have to make a voice call or do a personal visit to get in touch with anyone I need to. I do appreciate “likes” to a post. Yet, I know that personal interaction would bring me greater satisfaction.
Much as I am relieved, on a personal level, that I belong to the generation that I do, as a marketer, I am curious about the generation that came after.
With the developments in technology and the pace at which life is lived today, it is practically impossible to have shared experiences. Kids may watch the same show, but they no longer watch it at the same time through the same medium. Deciding on where to go on a Sunday afternoon is as complex as choosing what type of coffee to have—tall or short, caf or decaf, fat or non-fat, whip or no whip, milk or soy. Options abound, and people today have the freedom to personalise a customer experience and make it unique to himself.
People today share platforms, and not experiences. Digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube are now the venues where we draw experiences. Even within these platforms, the experiences are very different amongst users and are curated for each individual. In fact, even in sharing experiences within the said platforms, being different is the name of the game. People put value on things that appear to be unique, as can be seen with the “likes” such posts get. It is no longer enough that we see a cute cat today. That cute cat has to have skills and perform tricks to get attention.
As marketers, these truths pose a huge challenge. With the near extinction of shared experiences as my generation has defined, it will be interesting to see how and where we will draw consumer insights for our campaigns. As personalisation and customisations make consumer segments narrower and more specific, it will be interesting to see how we communicate to audiences at efficient levels. Do we prioritise reaching a few through highly targeted and expensive media platforms that all but allow us to personally speak to our market? Or do we still take our chances with traditional mass media, where we reach many but spillover is a fact?
Now that consumers increasingly demand that they be treated as unique individuals, it will be interesting to see how we effectively establish relevance to convince them to buy into common benefits offered by the same product. How do we sell plain water when people have different views on hydration?
While it may be true that effective marketing is about differentiation, the question is how different can we be in an environment that is consistently dissecting and redefining itself by the minute? How else can we sell coffee if there are already 80,000 ways to sell it?
Eunice Gan is strategic planning director with Campaigns & Grey