Reaching Asia’s Affluent Millennials

Millennials: the latest group that advertisers are looking to reach, even though there is still no consensus on when this generation starts and ends. This is very worrying from a marketing perspective—how can we target them if we don’t know exactly who they are? Despite the lack of clarity, this group has generated huge amounts of coverage in various industries and in the mainstream media. However, a search on Google will show that most millennial consumer research has been US-focussed. We can’t help but wonder if millennials are a unique generation, growing up in an era of rapid technological change the like of which we’ve never seen before. Are millennials really all they’re cracked up to be in the rest of the world? Are they really the representation of all things innovative, cool, and current?

Affluence Determines the Millennial Mindset

With 606 million millennials in the Asia-Pacific region (APAC), millennials are one vast homogenised group of 16-34 year olds, but it’s obvious they can’t all be the same. When we set out to identify the millennials who embody these attributes, we discovered that, by applying a filter on affluence, things start to get very interesting. Non-affluent millennials—accounting for 82% (507m) of all millennials in APAC—aren’t all that different from the older generations attitudinally (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Comparison of attitudes of non-affluent millennials and people aged 35+.\"BBCFor example, 60% of non-affluent millennials agreed with the statement, \’I would pay more for sustainable/eco-friendly products\’ vs. 59% of people aged 35+. 51% in both cohorts agreed that they are \’brand conscious\’.

There are naturally some small generational differences, but these are not as vast or extreme as we’re often led to believe. So what about affluent millennials, who represent just 16% (109m) of the APAC millennial universe? This data tells a very different story (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Comparison of attitudes of affluent millennials, non-affluent millennials, and people aged 35+.


Affluent millennials are not only unique within their own demographic group but also compared to older generations,  including affluent ones. This tells us that the industry’s perception of millennials just doesn’t match up to the reality—it’s the affluent subset that should be considered the ‘real millennials’.

In order to understand what makes affluent millennials so unique, we surveyed over 3,000 of them across 31 markets. The sample was sourced through Global Web Index, a media industry-wide planning tool. The responses were modelled to their entire affluent millennial sample base of 14,000 respondents (top 25% household income).

Unique Views on Wealth and Caring for Environment

Our research found that there are two subjects which ultimately underpin an affluent millennial’s worldview. The first is their unique relationship with wealth. They are 36% more likely to consider themselves much more affluent than their equivalents in older generations. They are confident, outgoing, and like others to know of their wealth. Over half (54%) of affluent millennials agree that they like to ‘stand out in a crowd’ vs. just 39% of non-affluent millennials. They are also 27% more likely than non-affluent APAC millennials to agree that ‘money is the best measure of success’. This suggests that it’s vital that they have the respect of their peers, and money is fundamental to achieving this.

The second defining characteristic is a passion for protecting the environment. Affluent millennials care about the environment above any other global issue (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Top global issues ranked by importance.\"BBC

For them, this strength of feeling is intensified. Almost eight in ten (79%) say they do everything they can to help the environment vs. 71% of their non-affluent counterparts. The vital difference is that affluent millennials follow this through with their behaviour. They are 32% more likely to talk about environmental issues online, and 76% would pay more for sustainable/eco-friendly products vs. just 60% of non-affluent millennials. It’s also worth mentioning that affluent APAC millennials have a higher than global average score in willingness to pay extra for Earth-friendly products.

Affluent millennials have an expectation that brands will behave in much the same way as they do when it comes to safeguarding the environment or corporate responsibility more generally. More than eight in ten say they prefer brands that give something back to society and have a social conscience. There is a sense that ‘we’re all in it together’. Affluent millennials have a unique relationship with the brands they consume that runs much deeper and on a more emotional level when compared to their less wealthy counterparts. Brands play a critical role in their lives and help to define who they are to others (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Comparison of affluent and non-affluent millennial attitudes towards brands.

For example, ‘My favourite brand plays an integral role in my life’: 72% of affluent millennials agreed vs. 57% non-affluent millennials. ‘I am defined by the brands I purchase’: 62% of affluent millennials vs. 50% non-affluent millennials.

This also has implications for how they expect to be spoken to by advertisers. Affluent millennials are much more likely to view their favourite brands as friends, meaning it’s no longer a one-way relationship—it’s a dialogue. If brands can position themselves correctly, they’ll reach the most commercially receptive group, with 63% of affluent APAC millennials agreeing that they ‘tend to buy brands they see advertised’. This is much higher than their non-affluent counterparts (50%), and older affluents aged 35-54 (55%) and 55+ (45%).

The ‘Supercharged’ Affluent Millennials

We took one step further and segmented affluent millennials to identify the most valuable segment for brands and marketers. Within the affluent millennials cohort, there are three distinct segments (see Figure 5):

  1. ‘The Crowd’ are attitudinally no different to non-affluent millennials. They have a local outlook and don’t have much of a relationship with brands.
  2. ‘The Understated’ have a fleeting relationship with brands and aren’t brand loyal.
  3. ‘The Supercharged’ are the extreme affluent millennials, the opinion leaders of today and tomorrow. They are very global in their outlook and have a deep emotional relationship with brands.

Figure 5. The three segments of affluent millennials (population in APAC).\"BBC

So why should brands concentrate their efforts on the Supercharged? It’s because they are much more influential in business, early adopters of the latest technology, opinion leaders, and commercially receptive brand ambassadors.

  • ‘I am a senior business decision maker’: the Supercharged (index=444), the Understated (index=275), the Crowd (index=191)
  • ‘Having the latest technology products is very important to me’: the Supercharged (i=291), the Understated (i=149), the Crowd (i=84)
  • ‘I regularly inform friends and family about new products/services’: the Supercharged (i=300), the Understated (i=134), the Crowd (i=91)
  • ‘My favourite brand plays an integral role in my life’: the Supercharged (i=336), the Understated (i=115), the Crowd (i=91)

The Supercharged also have high spending power. Although the smallest of the three in population size, they actually spend more on major consumer items and financial services than the Crowd, which is twice their population size (see Table 1). This group of affluent millennials are indeed your ‘supercharged’ consumers!

Table 1. Estimated number of people in each segment that bought items last year (population in APAC).\"BBC

Affluent Millennials and News Consumption

When asked where advertisers can reach this clearly desirable audience, the industry response is a predictable one—social media! The stereotype is that, if they do consume news, it’s through digital native brands such as Vice, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and so on. The reality, however, is very different. On average, more affluent millennials (27%) follow traditional news providers (e.g. BBC, CNN, New York Times, etc.) than social/youth news brands (21%) on social networks. But why is that?

We know that affluent millennials are globally connected, more so than any group in history. In a complex, interconnected world, they know that events across the globe can affect them directly, both economically and politically. 75% of affluent millennials in APAC agree that news stories from other parts of the world feel more relevant to them than they used to. In this age of easy exposure to ‘fake news’, 83% of the affluent millennials say ‘trust’ is what they value most in a news provider, while 80% value news media’s impartial coverage and in-depth reporting. The random newsfeeds they receive on social platforms no longer meet the needs of this group of discerning young consumers. And it’s not just about the bigger picture from a global perspective; affluent millennials are also using international news providers to help them make important life and financial decisions which have a direct impact on their personal lives.

By Sally Wu, Research Director, Business & Audience Insight, APAC/BBC (Global News)