Millennials Are Destroying These Brands More Than You Think, but That’s OK

Millennials are pretty ruthless. From casual dining chains to bar soap to napkins, this much-maligned generation has been accused of killing, well, pretty much everything. The tendency to point the finger at young people whenever a company starts to stumble is so common that it’s become a punch line.

"millennials, a generation of murderers" tweet

“Millennials, a generation of murderers” | Brandon Sheffield via Twitter

Of course, millennials aren’t deliberately setting out to murder America’s favorite brands. Rather, some companies aren’t doing a great job of appealing to changing consumer tastes, and they’re suffering the consequences. That’s called capitalism, not a killing spree.

So which brands are guilty of trying to lay their own failures at the feet of America’s favorite generational scapegoat? We’ve rounded up 15 of the most prominent struggling brands millennials have been blamed for destroying, inluding brands they grew up with. (You’ll be surprised by page 12!)

1. Sam Adams

sam adams

Sam Adams beer | Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Reason: Marijuana

Rosé yes; beer no. Millennials like to sip on wine but pass on beer, apparently, which recently caused Goldman Sachs to downgrade the stocks of Boston Beer Company (which makes Sam Adams) and Constellation Brands (home of Pacifico, Corona, and Ballast Point). Alcohol sales among young people are down in general, according to CNBC. One reason? Young people are smoking more marijuana, which is cutting into the market for booze.

Next: A beloved American staple

2. Campbell’s Soup

campbell's soup

Cans of Campbell’s soup | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Reason: Chemical additives

Campbell’s Soup is one of the most-loved brands in America, but its retro appeal is largely confined to baby boomers and Gen Xers, who rank it as one of their top-five brands, according to Morning Consult. Millennials are much less keen on canned soup, it seems, with Campbell’s barely cracking the top 30. An unpronounceable ingredient list is part of the problem. “As long as those red-and-white cans contain names of chemicals on it, they’re not going to get the younger folks,” Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, told Morning Consult.

Next: One of our president’s favorite meals

3. McDonald’s

mcdonald's drive-thru

A customer at a McDonald’s drive-thru window | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Reason: Lack of modern ingredients

The Big Mac might be an American icon, but not for many young people. Only 1 in 5 of 18- to 34-year-olds have tried McDonald’s signature burger, a franchisee said in 2016. With sales of its traditional fare stagnant, the chain is trying to tap into new trends with sandwiches featuring millennial-friendly ingredients, such as avocado, sriracha, and kale.

Next: Sunday night?

4. The NFL

NFL logo

The NFL logo | Nick Laham/Getty Images

Reason: Abandoning TV/politics

Younger folks just aren’t watching sports as much (check page 11 for more fallout). The NFL has to make itself more appealing to younger generations if it wants to remain relevant, experts told Sports Illustrated. Ratings are down (though some blamed politics for the lack of interest in games), and the NFL needs to “give the viewer much more control,” Duke University professor Paul Haggen said. “Eventually one has to expect that young viewers’ abandonment of television will have a discernible effect on NFL ratings,” noted The Atlantic.

Next: What about the parade?

5. Macy’s


Customers leave a Macy’s store. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Reason: Not enough rebranding

“Why don’t millennials want to shop at Macy’s?” a writer for Forbes wondered back in 2015. Execs at the chain, which has been closing stores right and left, are probably asking themselves the same question.

It’s not that the department store hasn’t tried to court younger shoppers. It redesigned the basement of its flagship Herald Square store, adding features, such as an Instagram wall and a 3D printing area, to appeal to millennials. It partnered with Etsy. The company even tried a short-lived tuxedo rental service, also targeted at younger shoppers who needed outfits for weddings and other special occasions. Unfortunately, nothing seems to be working for the beleaguered chain.

Next: A household name in salad

6. Newman’s Own

Paul Newman

Paul Newman | Paramount Pictures

Reason: Who’s Paul Newman again?

Newman’s Own seems like a brand designed to appeal to millennials before anyone knew what a millennial was. Many of its products are organic or natural, and it donates all its profits to charity. But there’s a problem. Younger shoppers don’t know who Paul Newman is, according to The New York Times, and they aren’t familiar with his eponymous salad dressing. Someone needs to show these kids Cool Hand Luke.

Next: Will they ever get married?

7. Tiffany & Co.

tiffany & co

A flag for a Tiffany & Co. store | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Reason: Millennials just aren’t getting married

Millennials’ refusal to settle down and just get married already is also hurting Tiffany & Co. The problems facing the jewelry chain are similar to those plaguing De Beers: young shoppers who are waiting to wed, have less interest in fine jewelry, and are more willing to try out fake stones, according to Bloomberg.

A partnership with Lady Gaga sought to make the brand more appealing to a younger demographic. And new ads with stars, including Janelle Monáe, Elle Fanning, and Zoë Kravitz, also seemed designed to make the brand appear fresh and hip.

Next: The freedom of the open road…

8. Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson bike

A Harley-Davidson bike | Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty Images

Reason: Lack of interest

Their boomer parents might have dreamed of hitting the open road like Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, but motorcycles don’t have the same cultural cachet for millennial. At least, that’s what industry analysts who are worried about Harley-Davidson think. Alliance Bernstein recently downgraded its outlook for the cycle-maker in part because “data suggests the younger Gen Y population is adopting motorcycling at a far lower rate than prior generations.”

Next: Laundry accessories are seeing a downturn

9. Downy

Downy products

Downy products | Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for ELLE Magazine

Reason: No need/eco-conscious

Fabric softeners have been falling in popularity for years, with sales of products, such as Downy and Snuggle, down 15% between 2015 and 2017, according to Fortune. Baffled manufacturers have finally singled out a culprit. Young people are to blame because they don’t know what fabric softener is or why you would buy it. Even if they are familiar with the product, they’re too “eco-conscious” and afraid of chemicals to use it in their home. Or it could just be that improvements in detergents and washing machines mean there’s less need for fabric softeners than when they were introduced in the 1960s.

Next: Fashion preferences have changed

10. J. Crew

J. Crew

A man walks out of J. Crew store. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Reason: Dates aesthetic and high prices

Preppy favorite J. Crew has been in the doldrums lately, in part because of young people’s preference for fast fashion from the likes of H&M and Zara, according to Nylon. It didn’t help that many shoppers felt the store’s clothes were overpriced and that the brand’s signature aesthetic (including plenty of jewel tones and rhinestones) was dated.

Next: Food not fast enough?

11. Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

A sign at the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Reason: Millennials prefer cooking at home

Casual dining restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings are worried. “Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants and eating quickly, in fast casual or quick-serve restaurants,” Buffalo Wild Wings’ CEO Sally Smith recently wrote in a letter to shareholders. “Mall traffic has slowed. And, surprisingly, television viewership of sporting events (important for us, especially) is down.”

The sports bar chain isn’t going down without a fight though. The company is testing out smaller, quick-serve restaurants, dubbed “B-Dubs Express,” to attract younger diners.

Next: Exclusivity failed them 

12. Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie & Fitch

An Abercrombie & Fitch store | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Reason: A&F is out of fashion, too exclusive

If things are looking bad at J. Crew, they might be just as dire at its frequent neighbor at the mall, Abercrombie & Fitch. Back in the 2000s, the chain became a retail powerhouse by selling itself as a place where sexy, popular people shopped (and worked). But tastes changed, and the “exclusivity” that made Abercrombie & Fitch feel special doesn’t appeal as much to today’s youthful shoppers, noted a report in Columbus Monthly. The company is making over some stores to fit with today’s tastes, but in a challenging retail environment, it’s not clear whether young people will return to the chain.

Next: The rocks don’t matter

13. De Beers

De Beers

A sign outside the global headquarters of De Beers | Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Reason: Luxury goods? Who needs ’em!

De Beers, the biggest diamond company in the world, pretty much invented the idea of diamond engagement rings. So you can bet it’s freaking out about millennials’ lack of interest in their sparkly rocks. This generation is marrying later (or not at all), is less interested in luxury goods, and is more open to other types of stones, such as sapphires or even — gasp — lab-created diamonds, according to the Financial Times. In response, the company is trying to sell younger shoppers on the exclusivity of authentic diamonds and encouraging them to buy baubles for special events other than an engagement.

Next: The Greeks know where it’s at

14. Yoplait

Reason: Millennials prefer Greek yogurt

Blame it on the Greeks. Customers, especially younger ones, are turning away from light yogurt brands like Yoplait in favor of more filling, protein-rich Greek yogurts, according to Business Insider. But the popularity of Greek yogurt might be waning, according to The Washington Post. Drinkable yogurts, such as kefir, are now the “trendiest yogurt.”

Next: The coupons aren’t helping

15. Bed Bath & Beyond

bed bath and beyond store

A Bed Bath & Beyond store | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Reason: Foot traffic is down, Amazon is winning

Like other retailers, Bed Bath & Beyond is facing challenges on a few fronts, including declining foot traffic in stores and competition from sites, such as Amazon. Analysts also say it’s not doing enough to market itself to younger shoppers, especially compared to rivals, such as online retailer Wayfair. Over the first seven months of 2017, the company’s stock lost a third of its value.

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