April 22, 2014

Millennials, Men, and a New Consumerism

HSBC did a study on advertising to young urban males, to whom they referred as “Yummies,” a term that needs to die. While the report may have captured some of the attitude shifts and buying trends of that demographic, it makes the mistake of thinking we 20-something-year-old dudes have a lot of cash to burn. We don’t.

The increase in purchases of male grooming and other “non-traditional” products, alongside a decrease in marriage rates, does not imply that young men are choosing to delay having families in order to splurge on themselves. That kind of thinking sounds like it’s coming from Old Economy Steven, the type from the previous generation who didn’t struggle much with systemic unemployment or student debt, and today can’t understand why all these kids are jobless and/or living with their parents.

The difference is that all other factors are not equal. Today’s young male did not live the same life in the same world as his forerunner Steven, then hit his 20s and decide, solely for reasons of lifestyle, to stop saving for an engagement ring in favor of getting one of those high-end shaving kits.

Indeed, younger generations are no longer richer than their predecessors. So when the millennial male spends, he picks his spots.

What’s interesting is that his spots seem to represent a philosophy of access and sustainability over ownership and luxury. A Mercedes is replaced by a ZipCar, not just for financial reasons but environmental ones. Millennials care about their carbon footprints, and want to use alternative fuels rather than oil and other fossil fuels. They’d rather have a smartphone than a car. They look up to Mark Zuckerberg for creating something of such social importance to their generation, and for still wearing zip-up hoodies despite the wealth it has brought him.

As Dante Atkins writes in The Guardian, we millennials ultimately “make our investments in lifestyle rather than proving a point with flashy luxury brands.”

Guys my age don’t have a ton of money to blow, but would rather look tastefully put-together than ostentatiously rich anyway.

Tags: Data & Analytics, Trends

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