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.
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.
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 millennials. 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,” CNBC reported.
Next: Sam Adams
2. Sam Adams
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: J. Crew
3. J. Crew
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: Abercrombie & Fitch
4. Abercrombie & Fitch
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.
“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: De Beers
6. De Beers
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: Tiffany & Co.
7. Tiffany & Co.
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: Campbell’s Soup
8. Campbell’s Soup
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.
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.
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: Buffalo Wild Wings
11. Buffalo Wild Wings
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: The NFL
12. The NFL
Remember how Buffalo Wild Wings’ CEO mentioned people weren’t watching sports as much? Well, she’s not the only one who needs to be worried about that trend. The NFL also must 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: Newman’s Own
13. Newman’s Own
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.
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: Bed Bath & Beyond
15. Bed Bath & Beyond
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.