How brands can empower millennials in navigating midlife transitions

How brands can empower millennials in navigating midlife transitions

May 30, 2023
7 min read

While many companies are focusing on cracking the code to engage Gen Z, Millennials (aged 27-42 in 2023) remain an engaged consumer demographic that should not be overlooked. Millennials are now facing a slew of new challenges in their lives, perhaps more than ever before, as an increasing number of them reach ‘midlife’ or begin the process of establishing stability and settling down. Being happy and balancing work and life is not an easy task, especially when new obstacles keep piling up. Personal financial crises, heavy workloads, and external uncertainties such as rising inflation and the pandemic are simply obstructing their progress in life.

According to Mintel research, a number of Millennials are emotionally wrecked. In Thailand, about half are stressed and over one in three are sleep deprived. Nearly one-third of Millennial women in India report experiencing negative emotions such as anxiety, sadness, and depression up to five times per week.

However, this isn’t the end of the Millennials’ story. People aged 25-44 in India and Southeast Asian (SEA) countries, particularly the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand see themselves as actively seeking ways to reduce stress, according to Mintel Global Consumer data. This means that Millennials are attempting to find a solution. But they need help.

Here are five practical ways that brands can help Millennials live more purposefully and pleasantly, whether at home, work, or elsewhere.

Help them indulge healthily

According to Mintel research, Millennials prioritise health and wellness and enjoy the act of self-care more after the pandemic. Things that only provide bodily goodness will no longer be sufficient, as they seek products and services that will help ease their mood and mind. They need an oasis to recharge their energy and soul, even if it’s just momentarily.

While it is relatively straightforward for beauty and personal care products to incorporate stress-relieving elements like aromatic scents, healing colours, or comforting textures, it is more challenging for food and drink products to do so as taste is a priority when feeling stressed. And, unfortunately, tasty food isn’t always healthy. This is made worse by easy access to tasty food choices like bubble tea, cakes, and pastries on food delivery apps – apps that are primarily used by Millennials.

Though Millennials’ intention to eat healthily remains, their action is usually interrupted by the desire for comfort foods and the convenience with which those foods can be obtained. They need help in rebalancing their eating habits because, at the end of the day, they are unwilling to give up small moments of pleasure and indulgence.  

Minimise their workplace stress

For weekday warriors like Millennials, working long hours and burnout are common. But as people become more open to discussing their emotional states, particularly workplace stress, the opportunity for brands to introduce products that help with stress and anxiety relief, as well as sleep improvement, grows. For example, Rocamina Energy’s energy drink claims to reduce fatigue and increase brain activity. 

Brands can foster mental health by creating safe spaces for people to connect and engage in meaningful conversations. For example, repurposing local venues, such as restaurants or community centres, into dedicated spaces where employees can dine, work, and participate in collaborative activities, such as knowledge-sharing sessions or wellness workshops. Furthermore, brands can use virtual platforms and online communities to create safe spaces for people to share their work stories, seek advice, and connect with others. By actively encouraging and facilitating discussions about mental health, brands can forge robust and enduring relationships with their customers, firmly grounded in trust and support.

But, frankly speaking, Millennials want more than just products to help them cope with stress. They want their employers to take proactive measures to minimise stressors. This is more than just giving Millennials free access to health and wellness apps or discounts to a yoga studio; they want fair packages/benefits to work for in the long run. And it is the responsibility of the employers to break down each component and explain why what they offer makes sense.

Let them shop, but not till they drop

Shopping is therapeutic, but overspending is a real problem that more Millennials are facing today. With more brands offering enticing promotions and payment options, shopping can be more of a headache than therapy. Given that Millennials are now more in debt than ever before, the mindset of spending to satisfy YOLO (you only live once) and FOMO (fear of missing out) needs to slow down and they need to think more about their bills, and more importantly, future finances.

Brands can aid Millennials in shopping more responsibly. Though payment flexibility (eg interest-free instalment plan, BNPL (buy now pay later) scheme) is appreciated, it is more crucial to help them know when to buy and when not to buy. There is an opportunity for brands to help Millennials understand, and adhere to, their budget. Offering channels for purchasing lower-priced alternatives such as pre-owned clothing and yellow-sticker foods and drinks can be one way to help them save money. This could also be a way to present brands’ ethics, which, Mintel research shows, Millennials are looking for from brands.

Support them in living with other generations

Millennials are the generation sandwiched between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ worlds, which is advantageous in terms of understanding the mindsets of different people. However, at times, it can be difficult for them to meet everyone’s expectations. This may be more problematic in Asian countries where many people live in extended households and workplaces with members of various ages.

Millennials, like every generation, want to be understood. They want a friend or an ally, and this is where brands can jump in meet a need. Brands can show that they understand the sources of stress that Millennials face—such as pressure from their Baby Boomer or Gen X parents to be intellectually and physically perfect, or having to work with nerve-racking Gen-Z coworkers who have strong social movement stances but poor work performance—then help other generations better understand Millennials. A brand campaign encouraging older generations to think twice before saying something that may offend the feelings of their younger family members, like this commercial from KohKae, is one example of how to draw attention to create more positive, harmonious living environments.

Help them learn to love themselves

Self-love is a difficult task for Millennials, who frequently suffer from impostor syndrome and are subjected to high societal expectations. They (or their families) often compare their success to that of others, making them feel inadequate and asking themselves questions like “Why am I not as lucky as them?”, “Haven’t I done well?”, or “Am I good enough?”

Brands can help Millennials increase their self-acceptance in a variety of ways. Brands could create initiatives to emotionally motivate them, such as encouraging them to embrace their beauty, signs of ageing, background, and heritage. Helping them self-improve to become a better version of themselves, such as guiding them on financial and investment skills or teaching them self-reflection techniques, can be practical ways to help them get closer to their goals and love themselves more.

What we think

Stress is a precursor to larger mental health issues among Millennials such as anxiety and depression, and it is increasingly infiltrating the lives of younger people. There is a large market for providing solutions to help them cope with mental and emotional health, ranging from media content to daily necessities to professional services. 

Brands can engage Millennials better by providing access to a daily dose of stress relief and healthy indulgent products, assisting them in coping with workplace stress, as well as helping them spend more wisely and better manage their finances. It’s also crucial for brands to help Millennials coexist with other generations that hold diverse mindsets. But, above all, brands need to help them understand and embrace their own value before they can embark on a journey of self-improvement.

Pongsansuan (Woon) Jiradechakul
Pongsansuan (Woon) Jiradechakul

Based in Bangkok, Woon is an Associate Director, Consumer Lifestyle Reports, South APAC (India and Thailand). She has been in market research for over seven years, with extensive experience in FMCG, retail, healthcare, and finance. With her expertise in qualitative research, she is eager to provide insights for global and local clients in order to better understand Thai consumers.

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