Time magazine famously branded them the “me me me generation” in May 2013. They’re supposedly hard to understand, and even harder to satisfy — especially at Christmas!
Millennials — people born between 1980 and 2000 — form a significant global demographic. Euromonitor International estimates that 31 per cent of the UAE population is millennials, compared to 11 per cent in ageing Japan or 18 per cent in more youthful markets.
Meanwhile, consultancy Accenture, in a study of millennial shoppers, observes they are the 20th century’s last generation and its first truly digital one. “This old century/new technology dichotomy gives pause to marketers attempting to understand and connect with this key demographic.”
Pass on products
So if you are in the same boat as these marketers — unsure of what to gift a millennial this festive season — a safe bet is to skip products or shiny tech and instead focus on gifting experiences. Particularly those that can broaden their horizons, add to their skill sets, or give millennials a competitive edge in their lives and careers.
Devika Singh-Mankani, a psychologist at The Hundred Wellness Centre in Dubai, says millennials enrol in more self-development courses and education programmes than any other age bracket. “They are looking for a way to experience themselves, others and the environment in a way that is different or deeper,” she says.
This generation strives for a sense of self-fulfilment and is motivated by novelty or disruptive ideas that can lead to change — though “none of this is worth it if it doesn’t come with a bit of recognition”.
As a gifting idea, she points to the new trend of escape rooms, where you get together in teams and try to escape from a room by unlocking certain clues.
“It’s not enough to have passive enjoyment, it has to be engaging, cognitively provocative and it better be fun,” she says.
Given their need to learn and stay relevant, Singh-Mankani recommends gifting online learning environments where millennials can interact with a cohort at an Ivy League school, or connect with teachers and other students via forums and online networks. “What a great present that would be.”
At the other end of the mind-body equilibrium lie experiences that promote a healthy lifestyle. Zenia Menon, Nutritionist and Dietician at the Dubai Herbal & Treatment Centre, says digital natives have broad access to information that wasn’t as easily available in the Nineties. Contrary to criticism that millennials eat out too much and too often, they are in fact some of the healthiest eaters of any generation.
“After all, they have grown up in a time when obesity is at an all-time high, which they have been making constant efforts to combat. Millennials also place a lot more value on what they put into their body, educating themselves on the benefits of natural and organic foods.” Menon notes that an increasing number of young people are switching to vegan or plant-based diets.
A gift that would go down well here would be regular, healthy meals delivered to their homes or offices — it would also help with any New Year’s resolutions.
“Gift them a month or more of meal delivery service, which they would also love for the convenience factor. A health-conscious person would benefit from a daily food plan, be it just lunch or all-day long,” Menon says. Or book a series of cooking classes for health enthusiasts to help them better manage their meal plans.
Since physical inactivity is a risk factor for many health problems, Menon recommends gifting body combat and outdoors exercise sessions. “Group classes may pique their interest — for example, aqua aerobics or yoga retreats with detox in the desert.” Alternatively, subscribe them to online fitness programmes such as Freeletics.
Bhakti Khubchandani, a 23-year-old millennial, entrepreneur and director of the escape room venture, Escape Reality, believes the tremendous exposure and access to the rest of the world drives millennials to do more and be more, so as to stand apart from others. “We fear that we will not truly figure out our passion and instead get stuck in a monotonous routine and be a cog in a machine, instead of potentially owning the machine.”
She suggests activities that “excite people and help them push their limits”. Besides escape rooms, Khubchandani recommends experiences that will help recipients overcome fears and become risk-takers.
“A wonderful gift would be an opportunity to experience skydiving or fire-walking, to ascertain ourselves of the immense strength and power we have within ourselves,” she says. The new zip line at the Dubai Marina — the world’s longest in a city — is just the sort of thing, if you’ve got Dh650 to spare.
Sound appealing? In fact, you may even want to join the millennials by gifting yourself some of these experiences.