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China's millennials grow up

News, 27 October 2016

SHANGHAI: China's oft-maligned millennials are a unique demographic, entering adulthood unburdened by the country's past and with a degree of confidence and individualism that sets them apart from their predecessors, a new report has said.

These young adults are a product of China's economic reform, and are dramatically different from previous generations that lived through poverty and the cultural revolution.

In Rhythm Millennials, media agency OMD China noted how than 230m millennials born between 1990 and 2000 – about 17% of the total population – are becoming more mature and shifting their perspectives from being self-focused to society-focused.

Jeanette Phang, Business Director/Business Intelligence, OMD China, rejected the popular notion of Chinese millennials as "self-absorbed children who plague the world with their 45-degree angled selfies".

While there may have been some truth to the picture painted of "narcissistic wunderkinds", that is changing, as this group is now "acutely aware of their societal influence". Across areas such as minimising their environmental impact, donating to disaster funds and shunning celebrities and brands that lack a moral compass, "millennials believe in their power to change the world", said Phang.

The report highlighted several ways in which marketers can tap into this crucial age group which is entering the workforce and starting to make major purchases.

It recommends that brands establish an ethical brand image – 75% of millennials support brands with good ethics – and pay attention to major events that affect millennials, who care about what is happening in society.

The should also consider how they can enhance the lives of millennials, who crave broader horizons and like to travel (32% went abroad last year).

Having a unique brand personality can tie in to this group's disinclination to follow the mainstream, while the use of self-deprecating, down-to-earth humour can build engagement.

Perhaps one of the ways in which this group differs most dramatically from previous generations is in its willingness to spend.

At 49%, China's savings ratio (as a percentage of GDP) is one of the highest in the world.

But "only 26% of [Chinese] millennials save money," according to Bhasker Jaiswal, Managing Partner of Business Intelligence, OMD China. "If spending can make them happy now, they do it."

Data sourced from OMD China, World bank; additional content by Warc staff