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Marketing To The African Millennial

Updated: Apr 17, 2023


The end of the year is a season of various attempts to drive up consumer spending through marketing campaigns positioned as opportunities to obtain products and services at great discounted prices. These cultural periods are now classified as Black Friday, which precedes the American Thanks Giving holiday and subsequently Christmas that is also characterized by getaway attractions.

These phenomena have over recent years been introduced by international brands in Africa in a bid to create similar excitement and spur market activity on the continent as is being done mostly in the US, Europe and parts of Asia.

When these brands come to the African market, they are mostly targeting the millennial age group that is between 26 to 41 years old, a segment that arguably has the highest spending power. But the reality from my experience and anecdotal observation, is that the African millennial is different from that in other regions.

This means that there are several contextual aspects of this population segment that can be learned and tapped into. For instance, unlike their counterparts in the US and Europe who are usually already working and earning an income by the time they reach 26 years old, Africans will most often be still on their first job, in college, or still searching. In many instances, when they have an income, it will be used to support other siblings or relatives through school as well.

But once they settle in their careers or business ventures with better income streams, their consumer culture becomes quite aspirational as they try to catch up on the things they may have missed in their childhood. At this point they have young families and will try do the same for their children.

Despite these general observations, we find that many brands still struggle to get through to them. In my view, it boils down to three notable issues: lack of sufficient research, a blockaded environment devoid of ideas and slow attunement to the customers’ expectations.

Granted, most brands invest in research before and during their market penetration activities. However, experience has shown that most of this is fairly superficial and does not generate sufficient insights to deliver the right customer experience. For one, they fall short of aligning with the millennials’ definition of happiness. The millennials define happiness differently. Theirs is more holistic and includes freedom, time and family. We need to think about how to help them achieve these things for they are not just buying stuff.

There’s need for a great mindset rethink. The fact that a company hires young people in the lower ranks of the business doesn’t automatically translate to connection with the millennial market, unless the c-suite executives give the junior cadres space to experiment, fail and succeed.

It is crucial then that the firms selling to them and marketing to this demographic invest in the right research to learn about their hopes, aspirations, fears and struggles. They need to reach behind the veil of the questionnaire and establish who the humans really are. They need to truly understand their problems and find creative ways of solving these problems. Customer experience for the African millennial is determined by the customers themselves. They have embraced technology and it is important to meet them at their point of need with the technology. Some brands have successfully made this transition with Coca Cola for instance moving from marketing within the arm’s need of desire to within a click’s need of desire.


Technology is now major driving force for change. Examples abound how firms are using technology in different ways, including setting websites and having their product range online and even using a contact center for customer service.But technology has also shortened what we call the gap between awareness and advocacy. This is the length of time it takes for a consumer to experience your product or service and to either recommend or trash it. Due to the social media phenomenon, it takes place almost instantly. Thus, the rise in popularity of online reviews. The ride hailing taxi services today have taken it a notch higher and ask customers to rate the experience at the end of each trip. This rating influences the taxi drivers’ future ability to be assigned rides thus impacting their income directly.

Millennials are looking for convenience, in itself is a massive opportunity. This has seen the rise of home and office delivery services ranging from laundry to food, haircare and even overall domestic shopping. My view is that we are only scratching the surface with this trend. With eyeballs having shifted online where the millennials spend 75 percent of their time, there is a whole lot of work that can be achieved by meeting them online.


Senior executives should demonstrate they are passionate about innovation and creativity and infect the rest of the staff with their enthusiasm. Innovation boils down to curiosity and millennials at the workplace just want to be empowered and given a license to create, of course within guided parameters.

How does a brand ensure that it is on the right track? The businesses need to ask themselves fundamental questions such as ‘are they able to hear the boos and cheers of their customers’? And if they do, what are they doing about the boos especially?


It generally calls for a great mindset rethink. The fact that a company hires young people in the lower ranks of the business doesn’t automatically translate to connection with the millennial market, unless the c-suite executives give the junior cadres space to experiment, fail and succeed. There are some outlier companies such executives give the junior cadres space to experiment, fail and succeed. There are some outlier companies such as Unilever that have bucked the trend and instituted an innovation culture across the entire business, giving the staff space to generate and test ideas. Such an environment that acknowledges that failure is a part of success is not easy to achieve yet the future belongs to firms that embrace it.


This is where a company adopts a growth mindset, with senior executives demonstrating they are passionate about innovation and creativity and infecting the rest of the staff with their enthusiasm. Innovation boils down to curiosity and millennials at the workplace just want to be empowered and given a license to create, of course within guided parameters.


Everything begins and ends with the customer and businesses need to continuously learn from millennials by engaging with them and accelerating digitalization.


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