Our findings across London, Shanghai and Mexico City demonstrate clear evidence of a characteristic “Millennial mind-set” to be found across these very different global cities. What is also clear is that those core Millennial values are dialled up or down depending on the local market context; Millennials in London place the highest value on independence, Millennials in Shanghai are more focused on meaning-seeking, whilst those in Mexico are the most socially-minded.

In the pursuit of fostering positive emotions in their lives, Millennials undertake different approaches to life’s many challenges and stresses, with positivity key to alleviate many of the negatives and obstacles, and to live a happier life.

Millennials in London seek an escapist approach to life’s demand for an always ‘switched on’ mentality. Choosing to refocus on enhancing the self, they turn to improving their wellness to get back in touch with their individuality.

Millennials in Shanghai seek to make sense of their lives amidst rapid transformation in society. Through the search for the self, Millennials in Shanghai are open to innovations and changes, choosing to engage in activities that allow them to express their self-identity.

Millennials in Mexico City seek to harness the power of the individual to effect change. With the resurgence of nationalism fuelling the dedication and passion for their society, Millennials in Mexico City fight for what they believe in with their spiritedness, optimism, and a dare-to-try mentality.

Whether it is a focus to enhance the self, to search for the meaning of self in this changing world, or to harness the power of the individual to effect change collectively, what is evident is Millennials across these three cities are taking control of their lives. They are searching for experience which they believe make their lives more wholesome, meaningful, and purposeful. They are living for the moment, and there is a strong desire for real and authentic experiences.



So what does this mean for marketers? A key theme emerging from our analysis is the desire Millennials have for authenticity – but authenticity is a loaded word that generates perplexities.

In a bid to decipher authenticity, many brands fail to realise its multiple dimensions. A deeper – rather than superficial – understanding of the semantics allows exploration of potential angles and touchpoint opportunities that brands can tap into, to reach this diverse group of Millennials.

There are subtle differences between the ideas of ‘authenticity’ and ‘real’ which brands and marketers must firstly understand. While both terms arguably reflect the idea of being genuine, ‘authenticity’ may also be understood as having value by being original, whereas the value of ‘real’ lies in its trueness.

As well as understanding the meaning of authentic, there is also a need for brands to be aware that attributes and values such as authenticity do not apply sweepingly. As demonstrated in our series of articles, cultural context and the localised forces of change shape Millennials from the different cities, where brands can expect varying shades, degrees, and dimensions of the values that Millennials call for from brands.

Millennials want brands to understand them deeply – their lifestyles, psychologies, challenges, and causes. They are able to see through manufactured authenticity, and they want brands that are not only perceived as true, but are able to demonstrate their real/trueness. It is arguably more crucial than ever for brands to present themselves not only as authentic, but to drive deeper consumer connections and emotional engagement between consumers and brand. Without securing a more trustworthy and transparent reputation with real engagement, consumers will call into question whether authenticity is real, or whether it is just marketing.



As well as being message-based, authenticity and realness are also experiential. Coca Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign focused on providing a real experience – sharing a Coke with people that matter the most. In the UK, Share a Coke was in line with Australia and the US, but in China, instead of using given names (e.g. Andy, Tom as per the global campaign), Coca Cola adapted to the local market, tapping into China’s social media-savvy culture by using popular online nicknames like “Superstar” or “Dreamer” instead.

Tapping into the UK Millennial need for authentic experiences, GoPro’s latest collaboration with indie band Foals and Warner Brothers involved creating a 360 degree virtual reality (VR) immersive music video experience. This twist on a standard music video, filmed using GoPros and enabling the viewer to interact and effectively view the video in the way they want to, helps to immerse the viewer in the experience, rather than passively viewing.

In Mexico, brand Pixza, so called based on the way that some Mexicans pronounce the word ‘pizza’, is a restaurant reimagining the pizza format with a blue corn dough and iconic Mexican ingredient toppings. But it’s also a platform for social empowerment and to tap into Mexican City Millennials’ social-mindedness – for every five slices the restaurant sells, they donate one to the homeless. Pixza also offers Mexico City’s homeless community life skills courses, a shower, haircut, t-shirt and medical check-ups.



While there is a Millennial mind-set apparent across global cities, the way in which this manifests itself varies significantly depending on the cultural context, and brands need to appreciate the nuances of local culture to truly be authentic and engage consumers. While authenticity and real experiences are valued by Millennials, brands should not expect to adopt a uniform approach of what this means when targeting these groups in different markets. Understanding how authentic and real experiences can be culturally specific – so appreciating why Millennials in London are investing in themselves, why their counterparts in Shanghai are searching for meaning and empathising with the passion and social causes close to the hearts of Millennials in Mexico – will help brands generate real closeness, emotional engagement and demonstrate relevance and authenticity.

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