How To Reach Teens Who Won't Leave The Nest

Recently, the Pew Research Center reported a shocking milestone for young adults. For the first time in more than 130 years, more adults 18 - 34 are living at home with their parents than are living on their own with a romantic partner (32.1% vs. 31.6%).

Several social and economic factors are driving this trend. A weak job market means that teens and young adults can’t afford to move out and get a place of their own. Economic needs cut both ways: in many households, the parents also can’t afford for their adult offspring to move out, and need them there paying rent and contributing to household expenses.

Many Millennials are also delaying getting married, which keeps them at home longer. And, because Millennials are a much more diverse generation, they’re more likely to be from a culture that values multigenerational family living. For all of these reasons, the old 1950’s model of turning 18, getting a job, getting into a serious relationship, and moving away from home has gone right out the window.

Some of the old marketing assumptions also need to be tossed out the window. Marketing to teens and young adults isn’t as simple as targeting a self-sufficient person in their teens or early twenties. It becomes a more complicated message, including more stakeholders in the purchase process. Here are three tips for navigating these new waters: 

1. Don’t exclude parents. Typical teen/young adult marketing has held parents and older adults at a distance. Think of how MTV and Pepsi used to marketed. It made sense to capitalize on the rebelliousness of teens and young adults, and their desire to forge a new identity. However, now they might be relying on their parents to purchase the product, and they might be enjoying it with Mom and Dad. Mom might be watching “The Challenge” with you on MTV, and drinking Diet Pepsi with you at your summer cookout. So take care to message your product as worthwhile, useful and contemporary for teens…but not by disinviting those over 25…or even 55. Plus, ageism is an “-ism” too, and it’s so not cool!

2. Consider new needs from multigenerational living. It’s harder to “Netflix and chill” with a significant other if Mom, Dad and your siblings are around. That creates an opportunity for restaurants and other businesses to market themselves as a “third place” to socialize inexpensively away from home and work/school. How do you, Mom, Dad and Grandma manage the shopping list if you’re all buying for the household? There’s gotta be an app for that! How does a 4-6-person household get by with one or two cars? Uber and Lyft! So the changing composition of the household creates new needs, and new business opportunities for innovative products.

3. Invest in a good ethnography. Unfortunately, many traditional forms of market research don’t fully capture the experience of multiple stakeholders weighing in on a purchase, and using a product or service together. Many surveys or focus groups assume the individual respondent has a full or equal stake in the purchase decision, and much of our understanding of the purchase decision comes from singles and couples. Brands will need to invest in more ethnographic research to go into these houses, study the dynamics at play, study the lifestyles of these multigenerational households, and really understand how they’re buying and consuming products together. So consider this form of research to supplement the qual and quant that you’re already doing. There are innovative video/Webcam/mobile techniques that provide this service for well under $100K, a small investment with a big ROI.

Millennials aren’t just changing the workplace…they’re changing the home front, too. Brands need to change with them, or risk living alone.

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