Millennials are unique in being both the first digital generation and the first ‘global’ generation. Chinese millennials are also unique in being the first one-child generation and the first born under the booming growth from market-based economic reforms. For this reason, they comprise two quite different groups.
The ‘post-80s’ were shaped by the beginnings of China’s GDP boom, with upward aspirations and a sense of entitlement. The ‘post-90s’ were born in a period of greatly accelerated GDP growth in which frustrated ambitions led to a desire to enjoy and share life, today.
So, while Western academics debated whether millennials were the ‘Me generation’ or the ‘We generation’, in China they were both. Research by JWT suggests this has changed. Fully 90 per cent of Chinese millennials agreed that their generation is thinking less about ‘me’ and more about what ‘we’ could do together for the greater good. Around two thirds agreed that a lot of people their age were seeking jobs that give back to society.
The quest for advancement remains strong with learning a language ranking highest as an investment for the future. However, as material comforts become more attainable, millennials’ attitudes to their jobs have changed. Nine in ten believe that a job should help them pursue their passion and that the best measure of wealth is having a job that you like. And, the desire to enjoy today is shown by more Chinese millennials agreeing that spending on a hobby is a better investment in the future than starting a business.
Engaging with Chinese Milennials requires care. They live in the real world and are not inspired by idealistic dreams. Instead, they want real experiences that enrich their lives, today. Millennials no longer feel a special sense of entitlement but they do want to be recognised as individuals.
Coke’s customised labels—like ‘Fair, rich beauty’ and ‘Natural nerd’—capitalised on this. And Millennials’ pragmatism means that style should be supported by substance.
Timothy York is head of planning with JWT Shanghai