Marketing people and all of those ‘innovation agencies’ get very exercised these days about ‘generations’ – the Baby Boomers, Gen X, the Millennials….. What they believe, what they care about, how they behave and, crucially, what they buy. But is this just hype or does when you were born really define you as person?
To find out I went to an FDIN seminar a couple of weeks ago. I am not sure that I came away totally convinced but the concepts were interesting and, given that you need something to guide your forward planning, looking at generational behaviour patterns seems as good a way as any. Good enough anyhow for us to have incorporated it into the September FreeFrom Food FDIN seminar which will focus FreeFrom Food for the Future and will cover the role of millennials and Gen Z as well as the growing role of export in UK freefrom food manufacture. Book up now….
However, back to the generations…
So what are the generations that we, or at least marketeers, are concerned with?
- Baby Boomers – those of us born between the end of WWII and 1960
- Generation X – those born between 1960 and 1980
- Millennials – those born in the ’80s and ’90s
- Gen Z – those born since the turn of the millennium
And while the Baby Boomers (today’s affluent pensioners) and Generation X make up the majority of the population, it is the Millennials and Generation Z – the shoppers of the future – that are seen as the most important and influential group.
However, while the era in which you are born does appear to affect your outlook, your behaviour will also be governed by your ‘lifestage’. In other words, preferences are laid down early, often in childhood or as a teenager and will be unlikely to change much during our lives (the ‘cohort’ that you belong to). But how you behave at any given age will depend on what stage in life you are in (‘lifestage’) – single and starting out on your career; matched up with a partner and settling down; family with young children; family with teenage children; couple with adult children who have left home etc.
This does, obviously, make the whole picture at lot more complicated…. However, there seem to be some general observations about millennials which are of interest to those of us who have children who fall into that group and to those of you who may want to sell to them. So here we go.
Millenials are digital natives.
- This means that they are used to accessing information and making decisions very quickly.
- It also means that they are extremely visual. They expect to ‘see’ everything (not to read about it) and to make instant decisions.
- And… that they decide intuitively and are therefore very open to instant impressions and subliminal communication.
- When shopping they will listen their friends and online recommendations that they trust, not advertising. Honesty and transparency on the part of the products that they buy is crucial.
Millennials are the ‘we had it’ generation.
- This obviously does not apply to all but the majority of millennials have grown up being able to have most of what they wanted in terms of material goods.
- This means that they are less interested in acquiring or ‘having’ things/possessions and much more interested in ‘living’ – experiencing. Forget the house (you will never be able to afford one anyhow), the car, the pension – you can rent when you need it and retirement, if such a thing will even exist, is a long way away.
Millennials are the ‘sensible’ generation
- The majority are ambitious and competitive but hard working, determined and self absorbed.
- They are hedonistic in that they want to have a good time but they value hard work, sometimes even over honesty.
- One third of millennials do not drink alcohol at all and they are concerned about health although they do to appear actually be any healthier than other generations.
Millennials are socially conscious
- They are really concerned that the companies they buy from are socially conscious and are corporately responsible.
- They want authenticity and integrity in the products they buy, whether from large or small brands, and will punish any brand that they believe is trying to ‘put one over on them’.
Social class and income are irrelevant
- Although income is obviously relevant to purchasing power, these observations appear to hold good across both social and income groups.
And as for Generation Z – those nought to 17 year olds, the shoppers of the future? A few very brief thoughts:
- They tend to be overprotected in a world perceived by their parents to be ever more dangerous.
- They are therefore very cautious about making decisions.
- They buy largely online and 90% of their on line purchases are influenced by social media
- They are very pressurised – most have had 8-10 extra curricular activities to deal with from primary school onwards.
- They work collaboratively with friends and are more likely to learn from their peer group than from their parents
- They are very worldly – the average 16 year old has been to 11 countries – so in food terms are very international.
- They are very keen on nutrition, as most of them have learnt about it at school, and many are therefore quite cautious about what they eat.
- They want food to be about sharing the experience (not just the food but the venue) with friends, via multiple social media channels.
Do you recognise these traits in your own millennials or Gen Zs? Well, you can be sure that food manufacturers are taking note….