IRI Summit: What Millennials Want

When it comes to millennials, this consumer group cares about brands that focus on community service and the environment, it will pay more for a product if the price and value equation is right, and it can detect a brand that doesn’t belong in the social and digital media space.
These were some of the insights presented during a session on Wednesday with four Gen Yers at IRI’s CPG Summit. (The Chicago research firm this week renamed itself the SymphonyIRI Group, citing a broadening of product solutions to meet the changing market research landscape.) Speaking at the session was Matt Cheuvront, a self-described entrepreneur who writes a blog called “Life Without Pants”; Lauren Fernandez, an account executive at Dallas-based ad agency Moroch; Kenji Summers, a Brooklyn resident  in a lime green shirt, who is “in between jobs”; and Adrienne Waldo, who is just starting a job in real estate marketing.  

Attendees, including marketers like Coca-Cola and Nestle, learned what drives consumer brand engagement, purchasing decisions and viral, word-of-mouth among millennials. For instance, this group is extremely focused on price, but is also willing to pay extra for value, the panelists agreed. Fernandez said that she would rather purchase a pricier high-quality product if it will save her money in the long run.

Millennials, per SymphonyIRI Group, represent a $50 billion growth opportunity for packaged goods companies. And, as Fernandez noted, marketers should not ignore the buying power of Gen Yers.
“We’re those who will get married and one day, we won’t be at the bottom of the income bracket. [So,] if you start early, you’ll have that [brand] loyalty,” Fernandez said. As an example, Fernandez cited how she would often save up and then splurge on the Marc Jacobs line in college, although it wasn’t a financially smart decision to make at the time, she joked.
Millennials are also influenced by customer reviews, and will often turn to mobile devices like the iPhone to compare prices, especially for big-ticket purchases, Summers, of Brooklyn, said. Yet, they’re also very discerning about content, and can tell if a blog or Web site has been sponsored by an advertiser. Brands that don’t fit the social or digital media environment within which they live are a major turn off, Summers said.
And millennials can be both loyal—and extremely vocal—brand ambassadors. “If I have a good experience, the first thing I do is get it out on Twitter, write about it, whatever. Our generation, in general, is quick to say if we have a good experience, and maybe even quicker [to say] if we have a bad experience,” said Cheuvront.
Unlike teens and tweens, who crave the social experience of shopping in big malls with their peers, millennials prefer the one-on-one, e-commerce experience, the panelists said. Topics that are of high priority among millennials, as shared by the panelists, include budgeting and making shopping lists, health and wellness, organic foods, and choosing brands that are socially conscious. For example, Pepsi’s “Refresh” project, which focuses on community service, gained admiration from millennials like Summers.
Another takeaway from the panel might surprise some marketers. Despite a growing focus on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, millennials still gravitate toward brands with a real personality. Summers said: “We use Twitter and Facebook and MySpace . . . but we still want to make sure you’re not a robot and you’re not speaking to us 3,000 miles away.”