Who Actually Is The Dominant 2015 Consumer?

Young Millennials

Young Millennials

Febr. 23, 2015

In my recent article “2015 – A Revolutionary Year In Packaging” I predict that changing consumer behaviour will revolutionise packaging completely. On top of this, each demographic group at this moment is very outspoken, which makes the composition of the consumer field as complexly differentiated as never before.

But who actually is the dominant 2015 consumer?
All trend-watchers and market research agencies focus in their surveys on the Millennials (born between 1977 – 1993) and their attitudes towards products and packaging. Apparently in most market analysis the dominant influence of the Baby Boomer (born between 1946 – 1964) is something of the past, due to the fact that the Baby Boomer is retiring and the Millennials are set to become the largest generation, numbering 50% of the global workforce.

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But everybody in the consumer goods retail seems to forget a far more influence-grabbing and market-dominating demographic: The upcoming Gen-Z (born after 1994). And it’s not only Gen-Z, as they are wholeheartedly supported by their parents, Gen-X (born between 1965 – 1976), the generation that is taking over or already have the leading spots in business from the retiring Baby Boomers.

Millennials are defined to be tech-savvy, well-informed, mobile and anxious to discover and experience something before anyone else. Gen-X might not be so tech-savvy, but they certainly are comfortable with the contemporary technological gadgets around them. Gen-Z, their offspring, is completely different. According to a study by Sparks & Honey, a New York-based marketing agency, Gen-Z’s are digitally over-connected and multitask across at least five screens daily, spending 41% of their time outside of school with computers or mobile devices. “They suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) more than Millennials, so being culturally connected is critical”.

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And here is the catch. Gen-Z might be completely different to their parents (Gen-X), but they are very close to their family. “Their parents have a lot of control over the decisions that they make. Their influence is huge and plays into every aspect of their lives”, argues Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding. As the influence is vice-versa, these two demographic groups consequently form one large purchasing front.

Although the interests of Gen-Z are centred on high-tech, most want simple, freshly cooked food and certainly don’t want to eat something that seems “manufactured”. They aren’t big fans of microwaves and would rather use a stove top or oven to prepare meals. A study by the NPD Group found that salad consumption is the number one, followed by sandwiches and breakfast foods that require some cooking.
The study by Sparks & Honey found that Gen-Z wants to change the world. 60% of them want to have an impact on the world, compared to 39% of Millennials. And JWT Intelligence, the research division of communication agency JWT Thompson, found that they are increasingly discriminating between brands by looking for ethical behaviour and sustainability. They are also looking for brands with clear values.

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The Future Institute concludes: “Environmental protection, saving resources, CO2-reduction, Corporate Social Responsibility – the megatrend Neo-Ecology is shifting the coordinates of the economic model in the direction of a new business ethic and the meanwhile frequently quoted Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS)”.

And in this whole mix of quiet Gen-X consumers, tech-savvy Millennials and 24/7 connected Gen-Z consumers, there is one view that contrasts with the hectic lifestyle of all of them, but nevertheless is true for all ages, including the Baby Boomers and elderly.
A 20-country consumer survey, conducted by Tetra Pak and IPSOS in 2014, found that 60% (covering all ages) crave a simpler life, beginning with packaging.

Although he craves for simplicity, the 2015 consumer still expects packaging to be green, flawlessly functional, light and more compact, able to communicate its benefits clearly, and not just highly visible, but fashionable as well.

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That’s quite contradictory and it leaves the designers of consumer goods with a range of uncertainties about which new designed packaging will be successful or which one will fail.

But one aspect is crystal clear. In my opinion, companies should take all market studies glorifying and predicting a brilliant future for the interactive and electronic packaging with a large pinch of salt.
QR (Quick Response) is a perfect example of a failing high-tech approach to the consumer. It never was and never will be popular with the consumer. Too many steps and various apps in an unfulfilling process have the potential to lose customers, and convolute a brand’s promise.

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It’s clear that the contemporary consumer doesn’t have the intention to waste time with connecting to companies through packaging when shopping. Take a look at my article “2015 – A Revolutionary Year In Packaging” to see that his 2015 shopping behaviour has changed from a weekly supermarket stocking-up visit to a frequent almost daily 2 to 3 minutes visit to a (convenience) store.

A neighbourhood shop in Turkey

A neighbourhood shop in Turkey

At Gigaom Roadmap Robert Brunner of design studio Ammunition concludes that the consumer feels himself living in an era of “confusion and ill-conceived stuff”. He denounces the ill-conceived hype for interactive packaging, saying: “Adding connectivity and some high-tech “fun” to everything, isn’t necessarily doing the consumer any favours. For him many “things” are just fine in their unconnected state”.

A new carton design from Rondo-Pak not only can be printed with a digital watermark to connect smartphone-toting consumers to web-enabled content, it can play a high-definition video with sound—melding print and digital content for powerful point-of-purchase or point-of-use messaging.

A new carton design from Rondo-Pak not only can be printed with a digital watermark to connect smartphone-toting consumers to web-enabled content, it can play a high-definition video with sound—melding print and digital content for powerful point-of-purchase or point-of-use messaging.

Remember Gen-Z and Gen-X, together by far the largest demographic group, like to keep it simple. And as the Millennial is overly busy, he has to be selective and isn’t interested in useless and time-wasting connections with websites, which he just sees as a covert way to try to sell him crap.

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