Millennials may have more educational debt than any previous generation, but they also have disproportionate spending power. According to The Center for Generational Kinetics, Millennials are spending both their own money and that of their Boomer parents’, who are providing more access to money and credit than we’ve seen before. So with all that spending power, what are they spending it on — and how should brands reach them? The secret is to emphasize health and wellness across diverse industries.
The Importance to Millennials About Signaling Their Own Health and Wellness
To understand just how important health and wellness are to Millennials, it may help to look at a particularly narrow market: luxury water bottles. Remember the rise of Nalgene in the mid-2000s? Relatively modest by today’s standards, these colorful, indestructible bottles were the first “status” water bottles. Today, that market is dominated by pricey S’well bottles, but also includes Yeti, bkr, Hydro Flask, and others. And according to NYU marketing professor Tülin Erdem, flaunting these bottles are about more than hydration.
In Erdem’s interpretation, water bottles are a way that Millennials signal health and wellness, and those signals are important. They also do drink more water than previous generations, but even those with little physical investment in wellness sport high-end water bottles, athleisure, and other wellness markers on a day-to-day basis as a means of attracting like-minded peers and making a statement about their identity.
Food and Drink Are Obvious Targets
One sector that has an obvious edge in marketing to Millennials are food and drink brands, those companies who produce goods directly implicated in health and well-being, but there are also brands putting a spin on this classic angle. Consider, for example, the stark contrast between tea and alcohol.
Both tea and alcohol are getting a lot of buzz with Millennials, and both are leaning hard into the wellness message. This is easy for tea; products like matcha are popular precisely because they offer functional health benefits, which adds to its appeal. Traditionally alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, are typically bad for one’s health and are a harder sell. As such, brands are making small adjustments like making beer more like juice in order to market what seems like a more “refreshing” beverage. The repositioning of beer brands is an effort that other industries also could use to make their products more appealing.
Health and Wellness Extends to Pet Products
At the most basic level, the pet food market is an enormous growth area, expected to surpass $8.21 billion by 2024, not including additional products like supplements, treats, and toys purchased by owners, but the area that’s really growing is natural pet food products. That’s because 29% of U.S. buyers seek to avoid artificial ingredients in pet treats. They want their pets to eat how they eat, and they even budget for it. Millennial pet owners, in particular, are especially likely to spend money on grain-free or other “free-from” pet diets.
It’s also no surprise that pet treats have also taken on a functional bent — and that’s getting these products into the hands of users. In fact, Pedigree’s DentaSTIX tooth cleaning product won a major advertising award in 2018, and the company saw 24% sales growth, year over year. The product offers pet owners what marketers call “a positive treating product” as an alternative to many of the other options on the market, and this boost in sales hinges largely on Millennials.
Making a Marketing Move
Following family, health and wellness are Millennials’ top priority, with 53% deeming these issues important to them, far above spirituality and career — and marketing departments and brands must keep this in mind. Unlike so many other brand trends, health and wellness are changing the entire shape of what people buy at a structural level. It’s a big change, and even classically “unhealthy” products — snack foods, alcohol, etc. — need to find ways to reorient their brands in every sector, from clothing to home goods to transportation, to reach today’s buyers.