Millennials — a marketer’s nightmare, or dream come true? It really depends on whether you are trying to sell fast food hamburgers or craft beer.
If there’s one word that is seemingly inescapable — with the exception of ‘Kardashian’ — it has to be the term ‘millennial’. Given to the generation of young adults currently between the ages of 18 and 34, they have somewhat become a bit of a problematic joke in the eyes of older generations. For all of their selfie-taking and bad tattoos, millennials are forgoing traditional marks of adulthood, like getting married. They’re also not buying houses or cars at the same rate as generations before them.
This has led many to think that they are a bunch of entitled brats who refuse to grow up. But we have to take into account that millennials are saddled with more debt than any other previous generation, have grown up in a post-9/11 world of perpetual war, and entered the workforce during one of the worst economic stretches in American history. It hasn’t been all beach trips and Mike’s Hard Lemonades, though things are getting better.
And millennials, with their shifting tastes and different consumer demands, have led to some big economic and business changes. They’re buying things that no other generation bought before — at least not in such large quantities. That has led to surges in some sectors, and decline in others. For businesses, it’s been all about trying to figure out what exactly millennials want, and then creating a model (and corresponding app, or related Mountain Dew tie-in) to deliver it to them.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet for what millennials are buying more of. Think of these as business opportunities.
1. Body Art
How can you pick a millennial out of a crowd? Look for whoever has a tattoo of a piece of pizza, or a nose ring. Once considered relatively taboo, the millennial generation has embraced body art of all kinds — including tattooing, piercings, etc. — and have made them all pretty much commonplace. It’s no longer a life-ruining decision to get a tattoo, for example, as it may have once been. In fact, more than half of all millennials have modified their body in some way, and that number is likely to swell.
Interestingly enough, millennials have led the surge in sales of food and snacks from gas stations, and perhaps unsurprisingly, energy drinks. The younger crowds are splintering their consumption decisions away from middle of the road fast food joints like McDonald’s and instead going to Chipotle, or 7-11, it turns out. Convenience store sales are surging as a result.
And as for energy drinks, millennials turn out to be the core demographic. For those entering the workforce, trying to stay awake through college classes, or even becoming new parents, energy drinks have become a popular choice.
3. Fancy Beers
Of course, we can’t forget about the surging craft beer market. No longer do the kings of yesteryear like Miller, Budweiser, and Coors reign supreme in the beer industry. Well, maybe they do, but there is considerable competition from a slew of small time and craft brewers from all across the country, and millennials have been essential in allowing that to happen.
So grab an Iron Horse Finger Gun IPA, and be thankful for expanded market selection.
4. Fancy Foods
Guess who’s spurring on the ‘organic food’ revolution? Millennials are much more conscious about the things they eat, it seems. Organic food sales, as well as sales for specialty health food brands, have seen big spikes as the millennials have come of age. And don’t forget about what’s happening to traditional restaurant businesses like McDonald’s — younger generations are evidently taking more into account than just purchase price. The numbers show millennials are concerned about the quality of the food, and the sustainability and social practices of the businesses providing it to them.
The kids these days sure do love their pets. Millennials have been a driving force behind growing pet ownership rates in America, and because of that, the pet care industry is making more money than ever — tens of billions of dollars annually. And it’s not just in the direct purchasing of animals, either. Pet merchandise and accessories are huge sellers, allowing 20-somethings to dress up their dogs for Halloween all for, what we can assume, is a handful of Facebook ‘likes’.
To millennials, pets aren’t merely animals living in their homes. They’re family.
Condiments? Yes. Condiments. Specifically, hot sauce.
Let’s face it, our ancestors ate the blandest food imaginable for almost all of human civilization, and now that we have so many options for making things better, millennials are jumping on board. There’s a reason that sriracha sauce has become a household staple — and it’s not because of your ‘meat and potatoes’ Baby Boomer parents. Fast food restaurants have started adding spicy items to their menus just to attract millennial patrons, and other businesses are ramping up their sauce options. For millennials, it’s all about the sauce.
Research shows that millennials are much more apt to spend money on ‘experiences’ — think vacations, sky diving, a trip to the Amazon to do psychedelics, etc. — than any generation before them. This plays into why we’re seeing millennials forgo car and home ownership, and even starting families. Traveling, experiencing different cultures, and creating lifelong memories is evidently important to this generation, and hey, it’s cheaper and more fun than having a baby.
Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger