Born to a generation of recovering hippies, raised in the economic abundance of the 80’s and 90’s, and spat out into the real world amidst the latest American recession. This is a generation characterized by contradictions.
Yet these contradictions are what have shaped Millennial consumer preferences today: The demand for high quality products that are also simple, smart and economical.
Millennial Consumer Influences: The Internet, and the Environment.
Millennials are a unique generation for many reasons. One of the most significant is that they were born into the non-digital world but grew up in the midst of the rise of the Internet. This is important because this is the first generation of native technology users. Technology has made goods and information available almost instantaneously and Millennials have learned to expect this.
This generation is also charged with cleaning up some of the worst environmental disasters of our time and learning how to prosper in a world of limited natural resources and skyrocketing populations
So why is all of this background relevant to brands today?
The historical circumstances in which Millennials were raised shaped their consumption behaviors and preferences. Both the economic downturn and the environmental crises we face have spawned a collective interest in more conscious lifestyle and consumption choices.
New values have emerged from conscious consumerism that Millennials lean toward today:
Let’s dive into the economic and environmental circumstances that have shaped this set of values, which we think are key to understanding the Millennial consumer mindset.
Reality Bites: Navigating Today’s Economic Environment
The overspending habits of Americans throughout the past few decades came under harsh spotlight with the downturn of the economy circa 2008. We all know that the economic atmosphere in which Millennials emerged into the workforce was dire. The job market was in a sorry state and the inability of well-educated college grads to land good jobs put the majority of Millennials in tight financial situations, often burdened by school loans. All of these factors combined caused many young people to reevaluate their personal consumption behaviors and question the economic system that they were raised in.
The result, is that they tend to value minimalism and simplicity, for both practical and moral reasons:
- Practical: Millennials as a whole have less money to throw around: Fewer jobs = less disposable income. As a group, Millennials have less extra cash to spend, but (as a result of being raised in American consumer culture), still tend to value quality and good service.
- Moral: This is a generation that has a general disregard for excess, which they associate with the hyper-consumption that contributed to the 2008 economic downturn in America.
The point: Spending habits are more conservative but high quality items still make the cut.
Children of the Flower Children
Many Millennials had parents and teachers who were influenced by the birth of Environmentalism in the 70’s. The values instilled by the Environmental Movement have put more focus on simplicity and conservation. “Less is more” comes from the very real circumstances under which we are living. As environmental degradation and resource depletion become more acute, concern has grown among educated consumers. This concern influences which products Millennials buy, what foods they eat and which brands they support. They look for brands who have a minimal environmental impact and strive for conservative use of resources in their production.
The Millennial consumer is influenced by the seemingly contradictory influences of hyper consumerism and eco-conscious simplicity. This, coupled with challenging economic times and less cash flow, make for a dynamic set of challenges that brands today must face. Meeting the needs and demands of the Millennial consumer is a complex task, but we believe that learning to capture the attention of this generation of consumers will help brands become more flexible and more creative.