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Impact takes a look at key insights from the Indian millennial’s mindset that showcase how they are changing the rules of Marketing in the country and elsewhere


By Dipali Banka


With an estimated 440 million millennials in India, the sheer size of India’s young population paves the way for India’s consumer story to be one of the world’s most compelling in the next 20 years. Talk of millennials – i.e, those born between 1980 and 2000, and reaching young adulthood around 2000 – and you find that they are the first generation to be truly open to experimenting with brands. With the ever-changing media consumption patterns, they are also not averse to rejecting brands they don’t need. Therefore, for brands, reaching out to this audience with something relevant and different is not easy. Their preferences can appear to change overnight, and market disruptors can appear from nowhere. Here’s a look at key insights from the Indian millennial’s mindset, and how they are changing the rules of Marketing in the country and elsewhere.



Millennials are distinguished from older generations by their spending habits, brand preferences, values, personalities and general outlook on life. Furthermore, they engage with brands far more extensively, personally, and emotionally—and in entirely different ways—than have other generations, says Boston Consultancy Group in its report ‘How Millennials are Changing the Face of Marketing Forever - The Reciprocity Principle’. The report emphasises the mutual relationship of brands and consumers in brand-building and describes five key elements of this principle: reach, relevance, reputation, relation and referral. “Like any other ecosystem, the new marketing environment is dynamic, and its boundaries are fluid. Millennials are influencing each of these elements in profound ways,” says the report.

Al Ries, marketing professional and author, in a recent article explained the shift from 4Ps of Marketing to 4Ms of Marketing -- Merchandise, Market, Media and Message. “In the five decades since McCarthy first proposed the 4Ps, the concept of Marketing has broadened to include many other things besides products: Services, people, ideas, movements, organizations, cities, states, countries and countless other conceptual ideas. All of which could benefit from Marketing thinking and execution,” he notes.



The conventional, linear framework that most companies have used to manage brand engagement no longer holds because millennials don’t have a uniform media palate. They consume content across multiple devices throughout the day. “Marketers need to design content with a multi-platform approach that is device-agnostic, platform-specific and can be consumed seamlessly on multiple format screens,” says Ambika Sharma, Founder, Pulp Strategy.

Brands are experimenting with content types and formats. From long format films, web series, short vines to listicles, op-ed pieces and even documentary films, brands are venturing into content slowly but surely to reach out to their audience through what is relevant to them. “They have opened up to the idea of native advertising and quite a few understand the need for content to take precedence over an ad, and that the brand’s communication has to become part of the narrative rather than an in-your-face ad,” says Sattvik Mishra, CEO, ScoopWhoop Media. “Brands now want to tell stories that communicate their proposition to the audiences through stories that they would love to hear,” says Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO & Co-Founder, Culture Machine.

Although the millennials look at the world through their screens, they do have a few similarities with the previous generations. Brands have realized that, to convince these new-age consumers, they have to reach out to them digitally while still maintaining the relatable and emotional connect of the traditional approach. “The brand’s Marketing strategy should be authentic and genuine, but must also move beyond classic social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and tap newer media like Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest. Overall, the key is to maintain a balance between messaging, content variations and platforms to create a mix which is engaging and conversational,” Sharma adds.

“There is a huge spectrum of content that you can create from being very snappy on Snapchat to building engaging content on platforms like YouTube and so on. You have to be innovative in order to appeal to this audience, which has very little attention span,” says Amit Doshi, Head - Consumer Marketing and Digital, Lenovo India.



As the number of Internet users in India is growing steadily, the biggest opportunity in the country is around mobile phones. Internet user penetration in India is expected to be more than 40% in 2020. “Rural India is still a huge untapped market for content. We have first time young Internet users whose content consumption patterns are significantly different from the urban users. And this is the biggest opportunity for media companies and content platforms,” says Sattvik Mishra. “However, measurement and correlation of digital content consumption by users and its impact on brand metrics still remains a challenge as traditional ways of brand score-carding have still not evolved to include the varied formats of digital advertising in its ambit,” he adds.

Mobile phones have actually become the first screen through which brands can talk to millennials. The amount of time they spend on mobile screens is far greater than time spent on any other screen. Brands are also moving their advertising spends to mobile. According to the exchange4media Group’s Mobile Ad Spends India Report 2016, the mobile ad spends market is expected to grow at 78% to reach Rs 1,280 crore in 2016 and at 70-80% to reach Rs 2,200 crore by 2017.



Apart from mobiles, Television continues to be an important medium to reach out to the millennial audience. However, OTT platforms like Hotstar, Voot, Ditto TV are the destinations that have come into existence based on the insight that millennials do not have enough time to watch Television at home. “These platforms, along with YouTube, have become very powerful media to actually connect to them,” says Anand Chakravarthy, Managing Partner, Maxus. “Apart from that, there are a lot of opportunities outside of traditional media through which you can connect with them – for example, live entertainment. India is seeing a huge growth of live entertainment, in the form of music festivals, concerts, etc.; it will only become bigger going forward,” he adds.

“Right from Instagram to Twitter to Facebook and Snapchat, each of these platforms lend to our Marketing campaigns, but not necessarily all together. When we want to create conversations, it’s Twitter we turn to. If a campaign is visually appealing, Instagram is the best way to communicate to our audience. When we have a story to tell, YouTube does the trick! It’s all about mixing these in order to communicate to our consumer,” says Debosmita Majumder, Senior Manager Marketing, Puma India.

Traditional media like Print are less preferred by millennials as they do not spend time reading newspapers. It doesn’t mean that they do not know what is happening, because they catch up on news on digital apps. Therefore, various mobile applications - be it news, gaming or entertainment, is a very powerful touch-point to target them.

“With high adoption of digital as a Marketing route by brands and consumers, it has become extremely crucial to ensure that they are able to stand out from the clutter and provide service offerings that excite, engage and evangelize,” says Prashant Peres, Director-Marketing, Chocolates, Mondelez India.

But how do likes, followers and trending of activities on social media platforms turn into sales and give return on investment? How does it help the brand directly? “While likes and followers help in building up the first level of purchase funnel (awareness), engagement activities on social media platforms followed up with social selling strategy drive the user journey from consideration to action,” says Rajat Mehta, Senior President and Country Head (Retail Marketing) at Yes Bank.



Currently, most brands tend to follow the safe route of tried and tested social media implementation. If brands are able to invest in gaining insights towards understanding millennials more, and what they expect out of a brand, they may be able to drive higher success and be daring enough to create campaigns that break away from the clutter.

“While addressing millennials, there are still yawning gaps in terms of brand delivery. Some brands are still choosing to sit pretty and rely on the old 800 GRP TV plans followed by an internal sales force drive, while completely missing out on action for the remainder of the period. Millennials need to be constantly engaged without being bugged or irritated and brand managers are facing a challenge to be seen as hip, cool, responsible yet not too brash, wannabe and preachy,” adds Mehta of Yes Bank.

In order to truly appeal to the millennials, it’s important to constantly stay ahead of the trends. “The millennial today has lower loyalty and higher attraction to the maximum value for money he can gain. They are lured to the fastest with deals, offers and promotions. The millennial also has the highest ability to spread word of mouth, and hence is an excellent marketing tool,” says Zafar Rais, CEO of MindShift Interactive.


Millennials, being early adopters of technology and exciting propositions, and high mobile Internet users, present a great opportunity for most industries. “On the flip side, this target group is highly fickle and disloyal, which makes it challenging to retain their attention and interest. Constant innovation is the key to keeping them engaged with your brand,” says Arvind Nevatia, Senior Vice President, Consumer Segments, Vodafone India.




Sports, Apparel & Accessories

The youth today has become more assertive, affirmative and independent. They intend to exercise their free will and do what they love to and want to do. The need to be individual within the crowd is imminent in their expressions and social engagement.

They demand choices, they demand quality and they demand brands that they can relate with.

Millennials love speed – their turnaround time and their expectation of a brand’s turnaround time is extremely swift. Indian millennials have a point of view and are unafraid to share them.

Marketing to millennials means no hard-selling, no garnish, no extravaganza, instead pure and simple engagement and truth.

Millennials save less, compared to the earlier generation. They spend on experiences, not on things or objects. Travel is on top of their bucket list of experiences, and they are travelling a lot more than earlier.

For young people, it is really important to feel as if they are a part of something, a part of a trend; so they are reluctant to engage with traditional one-way Marketing.

Less than 3% of millennials rank TV news, magazines and books (traditional media sources) as influencing their purchases. Only 1% say that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more.

About 58% millennials expect brands to publish content online before they make a purchase and rank authenticity (43%) as more important than the content itself (32%) when consuming news.

More than traditional media and advertising, millennials are looking for opinions from their friends (37%), parents (36%) and online experts (17%) before making a purchase.


(Based on inputs from Deepika Deepti, Senior Manager, adidas Originals, Debosmita Majumder, Senior Manager Marketing, Puma India, Sanjay Vakharia, COO Spykar Lifestyle Pvt Ltd, Anushree Tainwala, Marketing Director, Samsonite South Asia Pvt. Ltd., Yashvardhan Gupta, CEO, Torero Corporation)


FMCG & Beverages

Millennial consumers are more value-seeking, more keenly aware of their choices in the market, and are looking for products that not only taste good, but are also sourced from the best places, does them good, and made by companies with value systems that speak directly to them.

Since most of them are working professionals living away from their homes, they’re constantly looking for things that are authentic, home-made and hygienic.

They also heavily consume information and entertainment online and are extremely well-connected, each wielding their own sphere of influence on social media.

Young millennials or consumers aged 18-20 who are either in college or in their first jobs, are clear in their choices and wants. Apart from looking for fun, excitement and certain edgy quality in products they buy, these consumers also look for products that are moderately priced but offer great value.

They are the optimistic trend-setters who are constantly looking for innovative products and are always delighted when a brand offers them unique consumption experiences.

They aspire to feel confident about themselves.


(Based on inputs from Prashant Peres, Director-Marketing, Chocolates, Mondelez India, Neeraj Kakkar, CEO at Hector Beverages Pvt. Ltd., Rajiv Kumar Bobal, Director Sales & Marketing, Revlon, India)



Millennials are early adopters of technology and trend-setters. A standout insight is their innate fear of not being connected, and thus missing out. They want to be connected at all times with their friends and the Internet.

In the recent past, mobile handsets have become their source of all information and their tool of being connected. This target group has shown the fastest growth in usage of mobile Internet as compared to other segments of society.

An urban smartphone-owning youth’s world now revolves around his mobile Internet and other segments of youth TG are fast catching up with the advent of cheaper 4G-enabled smartphones.


(Based on inputs from Arvind Nevatia, Senior Vice President, Consumer Segments, Vodafone India)


Banking & Insurance


While millennials are attracted to new age banking apps such as wallets for payments, given their convenience and accessibility, for more complex banking requirements, they value dealing with established brands that offer safety, trust and credibility.

With millennials being heavy shoppers online, their expectations from other companies including banks has shifted from off-the-shelf products to customized and personalized products and communication.

Another key insight is that millennials now expect service providers to support their lifestyle and financial needs, and not the other way round.

(Based on inputs from Rajat Mehta, Senior President and Country Head - Retail Marketing, Yes Bank)


Internet, Media & Content

Indian millennials have become selective in nature due to the huge information overload proliferating through multiple media. Hence, they only consume and engage with content that they find relatable, available on platforms that they are comfortable with, and which they can view at their convenience.

Emotion is key to getting millennials to pay attention. Content for Indian millennials has to evoke a reaction (and go beyond just providing information), be it of love, happiness, shock, anger, sadness, disgust and more. For content to be inherently share-worthy, it has to represent the personality that users want to project to their social network. 

Millennials will steadfastly stand up for the issues and problems that they believe in, and be very vocal about it. Be it animal rights, women’s issues, environmental issues or students’ rights, millennials today take to the democratic platforms of social media to make their voices heard. They will take to the streets if necessary but justice needs to be served.

There is a huge demand among millennials for content on the Internet in regional languages. With the rapid growth of smartphone penetration (though there’s still a long way to go), huge numbers of mobile-first Internet users are discovering new platforms and actively looking for quality content that has been created in the language in which they are comfortable.

Consumption of video content on the Internet is huge amongst Indian millennials. In 2015, India already had more than 110 million digital video viewers. The typical content formats (TV era) of 30 minute and 60 minute shows have been replaced with a variety of formats which are much shorter and easy to consume on low bandwidths as well.

An extension to the above trend is also that millennials are consuming content which simplifies and makes relevant, topics and news which otherwise they would not have paid attention to.

Social media has created what we call the ‘new content consumers’ who are spoilt for choice when it comes to content and information. This has led to a sort of Short Term Memory phenomenon, wherein what’s ‘trending’ and ‘news’ today is completely forgotten just a few days later. Millennials have also taken to memory outsourcing and Google has become their external hard drive since every bit of information is available at the click of a button.

They are divided heavily regionally, have a broad range of interests that span bloggers, comedy, local entertainment and are flippant when it comes to YouTubers. They follow as they grow older or get tired of themes and personalities.

(Based on inputs from Sattvik Mishra, CEO, ScoopWhoop Media & Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO & Co-Founder, Culture Machine)



Millennials are multi-dimensional. They want to do well in their career, but they equally want to follow their passion. They don’t want their life to be monotonous. They want to take a shot at different things.

They want brands to talk for them, rather than talk at them. They have their own point of view and knowledge and they believe they are as much a part of driving the brand forward.

They seek purpose from consumption of the brand. The brand needs to make a difference to a larger cause.

They are open to experimenting, trying out new experiences, tangible as well as intangible. And there is a huge ambition and aspiration to seek those experiences and much earlier in life than their earlier generation did.

(Based on inputs from Amit Doshi, Head Consumer Marketing and Digital, Lenovo India)


Alcoholic beverages

Millennials are more open to try and adapt to new products. They are more discerning in their choice of brands than previous generations.

It's a generation which truly believes in work hard, but party harder, so they go out in numbers, having a fun time together, not afraid to spend for great experiences and products.

Their media consumption has primarily moved to consuming byte-sized information primarily through social feeds.

(Based on inputs from Sandeep Singh, Director of Marketing, B9 Beverages Pvt. Ltd.)



Three different types of millennials are 1. Individualists, with a clear sense of personal style, maybe trending, maybe ahead and maybe ignoring what's in trend. They know who they are; 2. Sanction-seekers, who want to be in trend. There is some sense of FOMO - fear of missing out – here. 3. Conformists, who whilst they may be aware of what's in trend, are cautious, maybe often adapting in small bits which doesn't bring them totally out of their comfort zone.

The thing in common, though, is that they all are deeply socially connected one way or the other, and this may often not be just Facebook, and have a hunger to consume information on what's new.

Being constantly online helps them take a leap from checking out to check out in just a click. About 60% of millennials in India are transacting on their mobile phones.

They like to engage with the brands that give them a personalized experience. They are even willing to share GPS data and personal consumption preferences in order to get a unique personalized experience from brands. 

With product information, reviews and price comparisons, millennials seek maximum convenience at the lowest cost. They don't shy away from spending on quality services or luxuries like Gen X or Baby-Boomers do. They have greater disposable incomes and they are willing to spend it for quality work.

Millennials have a considerably short attention span. They want to be perceived as brand advocates and not being treated as mere purchasers of the brand.

They want to stand out, buy what is in trend now. On the other hand, they have significant exposure to a range of options and thus, have an evolved taste.

They are digital natives, and get most of their information from the web - both from brands, as well as peers. 

Their brand preferences are largely based on product excellence and customer experience. They use social media to broadcast their choices and influence the choices of others.


(Based on inputs from Prathyusha Agarwal, Head-Marketing, Tata CLiQ, Ashwin Dias, General Manager, Uber, Anubhab Goel, CEO & Co- Founder Zimmber, Mary Turner, CEO, KOOVS Group, Suchi Mukherjee, CEO and Founder, Limeroad, Arpita Ganesh ,CEO and Founder, Buttercups, Prabhkiran Singh - Co-founder & Director,, Jayant Mehrotra, Co-Founder, My Trade Box)


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