Picture: 123RF/Mark Adams
Picture: 123RF/Mark Adams

The Covid-19 lockdown is changing the way consumers interact with brands — and none more so than among the influential millennial demographic.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, were born in the early 1980s, the 1990s and the early 2000s, and are a key market for local brands. And they have the disposable income to make them attractive to marketers.

Jane Lyne-Kritzinger, MD of the Youth Dynamix agency, says she has noticed that consumers now search, compare and consider different products before making a purchase, and want to connect with brands that hold a unique flair or personal essence.

Jane Lyne-Kritzinger. Picture: Supplied
Jane Lyne-Kritzinger. Picture: Supplied

"Not mass produced, but unique in some way, even if made from recycled materials or part of a limited line. Products that are personalised or unique to each consumer are a huge draw card."

Tom Manners from Clockwork Media says: "Young consumers have been forced to realign their daily routines to lockdown restrictions and the realities of learning or working from home. Practical considerations aside, this sudden change has led to a huge shift in attitudes towards personal finances.

"We saw an immediate spike in interest related to savings and investments, and we expect this to continue in some households, leading to a long-term impact on behaviour. The possibility exists, however, that some youngsters may lean the other way and indulge in cautiously extravagant or back-with-a-bang spending as lockdown eases."

Brands operating in the new paradigm, says Lyne-Kritzinger, should be aware that they are constantly being compared and need to ensure they stand out. "Peer review and word of mouth is their primary source of information; brands must be out there and part of this world to survive — it means they need to be part of the brands community. Only if they are, will they engage and can [they] build their organic and truthful presence."

Manners says: "Brands that are winning are those that are not only e-commerce friendly but also prepared to fulfil orders timeously during lockdown. Many have tried but failed, and have experienced a backlash as a result. In addition, many younger consumers have picked up new hobbies during this period, particularly in home fitness and online gaming, and the brands that have won are those that have adopted a content-led approach to marketing.

Tom Manners. Picture: Supplied
Tom Manners. Picture: Supplied

"Instead of pushing a sale, they have been earning the consumer’s trust through long-form instructional videos and user-generated content."

Manners says the pandemic has demonstrated how important it is for organisations to be digitised in their processes, strong on fulfilment and in tune with how the consumer wants to engage online.

"Younger consumers are inherently more comfortable with having a digital-only relationship with brands, and have adapted well to this new way of life."

These aspects will be critical to business success and will no longer be viewed as nice-to-haves. If a brand doesn’t have an engaging online presence, it’s only a matter of time before a hungrier, nimbler competitor starts to eat its lunch.

Lyne-Kritzinger believes millennials are not only leading a new consumer revolution, but are at the forefront of social changes, as evidenced by the George Floyd protests in the US and UK.

This is the voice of one local respondent in new research the agency is conducting: "The youth become more vocal about government and social injustice, because of social media. We’re not taking it lying down. We’re a more conscious society and are not tolerating the treatment. I think it’s great that we’ve found our voice as youth, beyond the older generation, and we’re using social media to express our opinions."