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Omnicultural marketing and millennials: The rise of the new cultural diplomats

5 min read

Marketing Strategy

A commonly cited definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.” In today’s fast moving business environment, however, the new definition of insanity should be “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the SAME results.” That definition is especially applicable when trying to engage Generation Y.

Worldwide, there are 2 billion Global Ys (GYs) – a powerful consumer group between the ages of 18 and 34 who will represent more than $2.5 trillion in spending by 2020. This generation respects and expects innovation; more than 60% claim innovation is one of the most important qualities they look for in the brands they support.

With a little more than half the world’s population under age 30, the need to build brands that reflect millennials’ forward-thinking, creative characteristics is intensifying. Brands that understand GYs’ preferences, goals and aspirations will have a competitive advantage.

In the first-ever global Cassandra Report – the leading syndicated research study of young consumers – Noise | The Intelligence Group spoke to more than 3,000 GYs in 10 countries to help brands identify these challenges.

Know your audience

Beyond connections created by technology, GYs are the first generation to have an authentically global-outlook on life. These “cultural diplomats” pride themselves on their interconnectedness and awareness. In fact, 80% say that technology has made it easier to learn about other cultures.

GYs actively seek to establish “person-to-person” connections even across borders. As “cultural diplomats,” they also seek deeper knowledge about their own cultures and ways to share that with a wider audience. It’s no surprise that 74% said global travel is a top priority.

Brands have numerous opportunities to provide new ways for GYs to connect with one another in their home countries, digitally or abroad. Take EAT WITH, for example; it is the Airbnb for breaking bread with global travelers in private homes across 17 international cities. Instead of dining in restaurants aimed at tourists, GYs want to connect with other global citizens in a more authentic environment. EAT WITH enables them to learn about other countries and cultures and proudly represent their own.

Speak their language

GYs are one of the most misunderstood generations, especially when it comes to communication. Their continued use of visual social platforms like Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and Line are not a form of literal laziness but, in fact, a demonstration of GYs efforts to be more inclusive and increase efficiency.

More than 60% of millennials use social media to connect with people from all over the world and their social feeds are increasingly populated by multilingual posts, tweets and ideas. Images provide a much needed respite from language barriers. With the rise of Emoji-only social networks (such as Emojicate and, images are not only playing a role in how GYs communicate – they’re becoming their own language.

Marketers should be aware that more than 40% of GYs prefer to communicate with images over words, and that number increases to more than 60% in China and India. Because more than 70% of GYs want brands to build relationships and not just sell products, it is more important than ever for brands to communicate in these image-based ways.

Understand their world

Never before has a global youth population shared so many common values, attitudes and interests. Cultures collide on a regular basis – both in person and digitally – and among GYs, the result is more often communion than conflict. As GYs have now grown up with access to the same brands, technology and education, they frequently find they have more in common with their fellow global citizens than they do with some of their own neighbors.

As such, millennials want marketers to move away from multicultural marketing and lean toward a new omnicultural approach, which is an opportunity for ad campaigns to speak to them based not on what they are but rather who they are.

  • Ooredoo, a telecom in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, launched its first universal campaign with Lionel Messi and an international group of young soccer fans focusing on football’s unique ability to unite people.
  • Airbnb celebrated its unique perspective of hosts throughout the world in its first global campaign, showing window views that depict the universal pleasure of seeing a new country for the first time and experiencing a new culture with a local guide.

GYs – especially at the younger end of the age spectrum – are still developing their brand preferences and affinities, and the brands that will win are those that recognize the outsized role they play in GYs’ lives. Campaigns that inspire, bring cultures together and provide opportunities to connect global citizens will more accurately reflect the sensibilities of GYs and will ultimately pave the way for a lasting relationship.

Jamie Gutfreund is chief marketing officer of Noise | The Intelligence Group. Through her expert understanding of millennial mindsets and behaviors, Jamie helps guide CMOs and CEOs to develop innovative products, breakthrough marketing and digital strategies and forward-thinking HR programs.