How to turn millennials’ impatience into a business opportunity

Millennials have been getting a bad rap, largely from their older peers who see in them a bunch of spoiled brats who want things their own way and won’t stand for waiting, except for things to fall on their laps. Depending on which side of the 1980s you stand, you may feel that some of it is justified. One aspect will generate a consensus, though, and it’s that there is a business potential in this impatience.

It all starts with understanding why millennials, as well as other generations, appear less prepared to wait. The modern developments, brought about by technology that makes all manners of things, entertainment, information or indeed communication totally instantaneous, have turned patience into a thing of the past. One of the most obvious aspects of this impatience is in driving styles. Excessive speed, lack of courtesy, rash lane switching, anything goes for us to get to our destination faster… except we often don’t. We also see it in the workplace where progression is due rather than merited and a couple of years is as much as one will wait for a promotion.

This has an implication for brands in that they no longer have as much time to build their credentials, their presence and relevance to consumers as they once did. Brands are increasingly made, and damaged, in the instant. Communications, particularly in the digital sphere, are becoming much more fluid to be relevant and impactful. We’re in the era of the “always on”.

Ironically, this heavy reliance on technology is also creating a distance between people, despite us being more connected than ever. How many of us would prefer to send a message or get into a chat online rather than walking/driving to see that person and engage face to face? Of course, there are factors that make the former more feasible than the latter but the fact this possibility even exists seeps through and affects our preferences and habits.

In this ‘virtual’ space where physicality matters less, brands can adopt a personality and respond to human interactions as if they were human themselves. Gone are the days of call centers. In social media, a brand can be your new best friend, with a well defined personality, dispensing advice and engaging in banter, like sharing that funny cat video.

The appeal of an instantaneous life is that there is less effort in completing a particular task. For those of us who lived an analog life, needing a fixed line phone at home or outside to make a call or a map to plan a journey, today’s world seems particularly easy. While we appear to do more through multitasking, this lack of effort diminishes the scale of our achievements, making our victories somewhat shallow. “To vanquish without peril is to triumph without glory”, the French author Pierre Corneille once said.

This instantaneous mindset also risks making us all dissatisfied at best, angry or depressed at worst, when things don’t go our way. Expect a rise in consultations and prescriptions when all of this was supposed to make us more productive and happier.

Does this mean we should all switch off, burn our mobiles into a communal pyres and return to ploughing the fields? Some have, lamenting a rapid life that left them wanting for something simpler and fuller, more meaningful. It’s hard to conceive a modern economy on that basis though.

Many companies have pinned their future on millennials and meeting their exacting standards. The on-demand economy, where everything turns up or gets done at the click of a button, is a sign of this. Consumption patterns are changing and understanding what drives consumers is essential for a company to trigger desire and build demand. This week, OMD stages its OMD Predicts conference to explore this, through sessions with David Plouffe, Flamingo’s Jackie Hughes, global trend analyst Sean Pillot de Chenecey and OMD’s Neil Hurman. Join us if you can or follow the conversation at #OMDPredicts.

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Eric Mirabel

Eric Mirabel is Omnicom Media Group MENA's Regional Executive Director of Marketing, overseeing the marketing and communications of the Group's agencies across all markets in MENA

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