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Becoming Millennial
Posted by Benjamin B. Sargent on October 5, 2016  in the following blogs: Global Marketing, Mobile Localization, Web Globalization
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There’s been lots of hand-wringing among marketers and brands about how to reach the next generation of consumers and employees, as if they are so different than those who came before. At last week’s Brand2Global conference in Silicon Valley, many of the most interesting talks were by Millennial thought leaders, weighing-in on this very topic. Representatives of major brands such as  Nim de Swardt of Bacardi and Nigel Nikitovich of Dark Rift Entertainment came with bon mots like “from me to we.”  Another speaker, Kathleen Bostick of SDL, offered insights on emoji localization – what she called “the fastest growing language on the web.”

While language is a key factor in the global marketing discussion, what the Millennial marketers shared at Brand2Global went well beyond translation and, in fact, beyond global branding. Fully digital natives, they don’t recall a time before the internet. The internet is not a cool thing, not a better tool, it’s the environment they grew up in. Whatever digital media might help with, they own it – and that includes collaboration. 

While it’s harder to discuss generational characteristics across cultural boundaries, the traits of digital natives derive in part from growing up in a connected world, regardless of physical location. Millennials may indeed have more in common with peers in other countries, speaking other languages, than they have with older people in their local communities.  

Generations in the past grew up interacting with peers in other countries mostly via music, movies, and television. Now there are countless opportunities for direct interaction. World events from war to weather to acts of terror are experienced in real time on social networks – via that most personal of devices, the smartphone. International students are everywhere, making even face-to-face cross-cultural connections more prevalent in this generation.

Arguably, as a species, our greatest asset is collaboration. The ability of modern humans to work together – for instance, in hunting large animals like mastodons – likely played the decisive role in homo sapiens sapiens outcompeting earlier rivals, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans. The rise of nation states and international corporations also depend on the crucial human capacity for cooperation. Millennials have it in spades. Awareness of and respect for their own multicultural roots is another example. Rather than claiming a single ethnic identity, Millennials are more likely to acknowledge several cultural elements in their family makeup – understanding that individuals are multi-cultural, not just societies.

Technology has enabled these essential human traits to come to the fore for everybody, but Millennials get the benefit of taking these things for granted. They start here. Issues like world peace, economic expansion for all, and care for the well-being of people, animals in general, and the environment – wish list items for the rest of us – seem inherently doable for this generation. 

The takeaway from Brand2Global is this: Companies – or more rightly, people within companies – need to stop talking about “how to market to Millennials.” Instead, brands must become Millennial: inclusive, collaborative, diverse, optimistic, can-do. Hire, embrace, and empower Millennials within your organization. Learn how to behave like the next generation, instead of simply talking about it. 



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