What drives Millennial consumers?

By Tom Dougherty


What drives Millennial consumers?

Who are the Millennial consumers? The bane of a Generation X’s parenting, and the most desired demographic in marketing.

They are the ones reaching adulthood around the turn of the 21st century, generally born in the late 80s and throughout the 90s. They are the up-and-comers, now in their mid 20s through mid 30s, the demographic with the most to spend and the central tastemakers for many brands.

Millennial consumersMillennial consumers are transforming industries and brands because they are so unique. 

According to our studies, they are generally without malice and welcome people of all colors and sexual preferences into their groups. They are open to just about anything and are without judgment. But they own a high bullshit radar. They can see through fake and, therefore, treasure the authentic. They like to be in groups and are generally not loners. Compromise isn’t much of an option.

For marketers, understand that Millennial consumers are also not brand loyal. They’ll switch brands like it’s the same as actually flipping a switch. Their attention spans are short, and they are demanding.

Millennial consumers destroying some industries

Those oft-misunderstood characteristics explain why several industries are experiencing great upheaval. According to report by Business Insider, millennials are responsible for panic among many industries ranging from casual dining restaurants to motorcycles to razors.

Hell, even the downturn in beer and retail can be explained by the purchasing behaviors of Millennial consumers.

cvs gillette mach3 2 6 30 1561960627Let’s start with an unusual category, one that doesn’t get a whole lotta play among the business media. Razors. The industry is seeing sales drop 5.1% in the last year, and brands are responding by cutting costs (as much as 12% by Gillette).

The simple explanation for this? Male Millennial consumers don’t shave. They like their beards and, with some of us at Stealing Share parenting some of those men, we agree, anecdotally. They brag about their beards, commenting on others who like something from The Sons of Anarchy. To them, growing facial is being real. So some razor marketers are pushing trimmers instead of razors because there are few clean-shaven Millennial men.

But there’s also a self-identification that marketers can tap into. Millennial consumers see themselves as free spirits, unconstrained from social norms. They seek the authentic. In this way, they are more like the Baby Boomers who came of age in the late 60s and early 70s.

Research shows the differences

In fact, our own studies show that people are often more alike in terms of belief systems to their grandparents than anyone else. It’s like some characteristics, with some variation depending on social changes, skip a generation.

And there was a very important social impact on Millennial consumers. Technology. Specifically, the birth of the iPhone in 2007 changed everything, including the way those who grew up with it act.

Not to sound like a group of old fogeys, but in the pre-internet and pre-iPhone days, we were conditioned to seek out what we needed. We were often at the behest of others to get we wanted. We didn’t decide where we could get something. And we couldn’t decide when.

105464040 1537530563336rts2288dMillennial consumers matured in a world in which everything is at their fingertips. Want to watch a particular episode of The Twilight Zone with Rod Serling? You don’t have to wait for someone to program it. You just fire up the Netflix box and you’re set.

Those kinds of actions have a profound effect on behavior.

Why Millennials are killing restaurants

Let’s consider casual dining restaurants, like Applebee’s, Chili’s or TGI Fridays. As you would expect, sales are dropping and even Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith said, “Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery and eating quickly.”

She said that three years ago, and she’s no longer the CEO. The situation’s gotten even more pronounced since. Delivery is transforming the restaurant industry with brands like Door Dash, Uber Eats and GrubHub driving sales.

What did we mention before? That Millennial consumers are impatient. They want things to happen fast, and for things to come to them. Not slow, and having to seek out a place.

Brands don’t help themselves

You could also imagine that the brands of those casual restaurants are not very appealing. And you’d be right. Applebee’s says “Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood.” For Millennials, that sounds really freaking boring.

Chili’s “I Want My Baby Back” sounds like something out of the 50s. TGI Friday’s “In Here, It’s Always Friday” is an empty promise once you’ve been inside. It’s not authentic, and authenticity is a key driver for Millennial consumers.

Sales of motorcycles are down (Millennials prefer urban living, where more people live). Cereal, losing market share every which way, sees its sales drop because Millennial consumers like foods on the go.

Even the dramatic failure of the brick and mortar retail industry can be explained by Millennial characteristics. In fact, those stores represent the anthesis of them.

The stores seem fake. It’s a hassle shopping. They don’t have what I really need. I don’t need them.

How to win over Millennial consumers

For any brand to succeed, it must reflect the self-identification of its audience. To do so powerfully and emotionally means that audience must choose your brand or it’s emotional suicide, so to speak. Otherwise, they are choosing someone other than themselves.

For that reason, Millennial consumers are both the most susceptible to an emotional brand. And the ones most likely to reject it.

Millennial consumers can spot fake like a cat scanning a nighttime yard full of critters. No generation more abhors marketing than Millennials, yet they are also the most attracted to it IF it is authentic.

It drives their every behavior: Beards are cool, a Macy’s store with mannequins is not. The more you understand your target audience with projectable research that goes beyond simple usage & attitudes, the more you can be a reflection of that audience.

Millennial consumers are generally misunderstood by marketers lost in the old ways. But the way to create preference is the same as it’s always been. Represent the customer.

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