Adulting FTW: America's Newest Grownups Shift Consumption Of Media, Goods

How are millennials and Gen Z changing consumption culture? 

These new grownups are nothing if not diverse and complex, very different from the common perceptions and fallacies we’ve been fed about them via the media.

Far from being irresponsible, entitled and flighty, they are actually struggling to achieve adult milestones such as financial stability, a family, home ownership — and, yes, matching furniture. However, they’re  pursuing these goals in a challenging world where they are continually infantilized or ignored. So how do marketers tap in? Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

Don’t label me: Categorizing this group as “millennial” is a mistake, as the word has a negative connotation after years of public derision from GenX and boomer-led media.  Millennials believe they don’t fit a stereotype — and they are right. 



Marketers need to be careful about generalizing when it comes to this group. They defy labeling both in their own minds and in any traditional way when it comes to marketing or brand interaction. 

Balance diversity and individuality: These generations see no problem bringing diversity to the table. They don’t want to merge into a homogenous society, but to work in harmony with others.

These issues have been pushed to the forefront in the past few months, with immigration and the foundation of American culture under scrutiny. It’s important that marketers make the subtle distinction between acceptance and assimilation. 

In-person shopping models need more work:  Millennials and Gen Z lack the nostalgia their elders feel when shopping in brick-and-mortar, but they do want to like such stores, according to two reports released by omnichannel analytics companies SmarterHQ and Euclid.

Online isn’t the perfect solution, but these generations’ in-person needs are not being met. They need interactive, experiential shopping experiences that physical storefronts are not quite providing yet.

Sharing economy is the norm: Millennials don’t want to keep up with the Joneses, they want to share with them. They are much less interested in personal possessions and happy to disrupt categories in favor of more collaborative, communal strategies. This is best illustrated by the rise of the sharing economy, with companies like AirBNB and Lyft now part of everyday life.

Self-expression to the max: Customization and personalization are critical to this generation — but not because they are narcissists.  Millennials reject unnecessary conformity and seek opportunities for self-expression. Brands must resonate on a very personal level with this audience, and make connections that were not even considered by previous age groups.

Privacy versus personalization:  Gen Z has gotten wise about privacy. They grew up in a world where everything is shared, but are reaching adulthood at a time when brands have been caught sharing too much about us. This is a tricky balance for marketers, as they somehow need to find a balance between the personalization that this group craves and expects, and the privacy that they demand.   

Brands are misunderstanding these younger generations at a fundamental level, but this problem is fixable. By identifying new marketing strategies to communicate effectively, brands can reach generations that are more diverse and savvy than any other in history.

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