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Introducing the Non-Linear Generation

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Non-Linear Generation’s perception of value extends way beyond traditional ‘linear’ concepts such as quoted price or cost

By Anshu Sarin, Chief Executive Officer at Berggruen Hotels Pvt. Ltd. (Keys Hotel)

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Her words cannot ring truer in the 21st century for a generation of experience hunters, who are seeking a greater purpose in life and amassing as much experience as they can. They are seeking to squeeze out every bit of what life has to offer. We call them the Non-Linear Generation. Nothing about their hunt for the best follows a linear trajectory. They are non-traditional, disruptive and unconventional in thinking in their expression.

The Non-Linear Generation’s perception of value extends way beyond traditional, ‘linear’ concepts such as quoted price or cost. Firstly, their concept of value is deeply personal; they are individual in the way they obtain and use information, make choices and reach opinions. This generation is prioritizing their cars and homes less and less, and assigning greater importance to personal experiences — and showing off pictures of them. It's a trend that's ultimately helping fuel growth of billion-dollar-plus start-ups like Uber, WeWork and Airbnb. Their individual values are present across all exposures of their lives, from food and shopping, to travel and tourism to their particular attitudes on work-life balance.

According to a study, 72% millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences than on material things. The study by Harris reveals that these guys are spending their time and money on experiences like concerts, social events, athletic pursuits, cultural experiences and more. Millennials value individual and, where possible, deeply personal experiences that go way beyond the superficial. Picking up the phone and calling a hotel chain is no longer common practice. These explorers don’t want familiar names or take traditional routes – they want an “over and above” experience. They inhibit the desire for more meaningful, off-the-radar travel experiences.  

This generation trades and negotiates everything; from the deals they secure on Flipkart to the (selective) friends they invite onto Snapchat/Instagram. Price comparison and daily deal sites, aggregators and social media have transformed these consumers into “mini stockbrokers,” who are able to instantly assess the value of a particular product on a given day or within a given time period.

Secondly, millennial’s values are in a constant flux as they almost never have strict limits or boundaries. As this generation moves through life, their values change. For example, they may have started of their career where success is measured by money and status. But after they have a family, work-life balance may value more. As their definition of success changes, so will their personal values. Everybody passes through different stages in life, from their childhood to adulthood. As we get older, we experience changes - the things that we value, the morals we uphold, and the aspects of life we consider important. Because of these transformations, our values in life and the things we consider important change with it. For example, shopping has now become more social—involving all family members—and much more frequent, thanks to the rise of online shopping. For another, many consumers are making different buying and tradeoff decisions. For example, immediate gratification is becoming more important than asset creation. Also, the biggest desires of aspirer households used to be to own a house and a car. Today, many more of these consumers want to take international vacations, putting a premium on experiences and not growing material assets. Similarly, affluent households are becoming comfort seekers, and they are willing to pay for it.

India’s ‘Non Linears’ are a generation of experience dealers and brokers, looking to extract value and gratification from every engagement, every moment, every transaction.  And finally, their ‘2 + 2 = 5’ logic is not restricted to quantitative information; it also extends to qualitative data such as feelings, sentiments, opinions, feedback, which are also thrown into the decision-making mix. Research shows that nearly 40% of millennials are more likely to buy a product or service when their purchase supports a cause. Furthermore, about 45% of millennials (compared to just 27% of non-millennials) believe they can contribute to a cause they care about more easily through a company’s program than on their own. Millennials are also the first generation to truly be invested in environmentally-friendly products and their uses. They prioritize purpose and sustainability even more than financial rewards, and more than half are willing to pay extra for a “greener,” healthier product. 

Some people may chose to believe that the choices they make result only from rational analysis of available alternatives. In reality, however, emotions greatly influence and, in many cases, even determine our decisions. The Non-linear generation make choices that are consistent with a desire to manage their level of emotional arousal. Compared to previous generations, millennials are more aware of social issues and have a greater desire to contribute towards positive change. To this generation, social impact is not just about philanthropy, it is about a collaborative and multifaceted approach to addressing societal issues. It is deeply embedded in their personal values, and a driving force behind their actions—be it deciding which employer to work for or where to buy their clothing.

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