Live From FMI Midwinter: Millennials are Just Tip of Iceberg: Pollster Zogby


Retailers who think they’ve got a handle on marketing to Millennials better hang on – demographics are becoming more complex than you thought.

That’s according to pollster John Zogby, who spoke on “The Societal Impact of the New Consumer,” Tuesday morning at the FMI Midwinter Conference in Miami Beach.

Zogby reports that the Millennial population has finally overtaken that of Baby Boomers, according to a recent Pew Research study, and in 2015 Millennials will represent 30 percent of the workforce.

Millennials are “America’s first global citizens,” Zogby asserted.

Thinking Globally

Technology has impacted Millennials’ lives, but not just because they’ve been raised on it. Cable television and the Internet has exposed Millennials to global youth movements, influencing their world view, and societal values are influencing purchasing choices. “These kids grew up with community service," Zogby noted.

And, he added, when asked in a poll how they view themselves, as a citizen of a city or country, or of planet Earth, most Millennials surveyed chose the latter.

Further, Zogby said, “they have little vertical orientation,” and are more focused on team efforts and “making the world a better place” than on being executives, compared to Boomers and their “bureaucratic” orientation.

“These kids have a sense of immediacy. They have a problem, they solve it horizontally – they go to their peers and reach shared solutions,” he said. “They need to be empowered.”

As consumers, Zogby continued, “They are eclectic but they will tell you what’s important and, more importantly, they’ll tell each other what’s important.” For example, Millennials may drink Pabst Blue Ribbon but they’ll wear high-end clothing brands like Prada.

However, he cautioned: “Individual marketing is important but people still live in packs – they influence and they are influenced.”

Zogby discussed the concept of “tribal analytics,” explaining that consumers can be broken out into “neo-tribes,” such as God Squad, those for whom faith is a driving force; Persistents, who have experienced tragedy and feel “life is a chore”; Happy Hedonists; Self Perfectionists; Creators; and Outsiders.

Asked by an audience member what needs are retailers not addressing for Millennials, Zogby replied, “You need to ask Millennials,” suggesting retailers seek their input. “These are our foodies,” he said. “Farm to table is vital, ethnic foods many of which most of us haven’t heard of. They are not shy.”

Being Relevant

Reacting to Zogby’s findings, a panel of grocery operators and suppliers, moderated by Joe Pine, author of “The Experience Economy,” agreed that Millennials are creating a new normal for retail marketing.

“To take advantage of this opportunity we have to connect people with the relevant life ideas,” said Benno Dorer, CEO of The Clorox Co. “We don’t sell products anymore. We sell ingredients for life events.”

Justin Dye, EVP and COO, East Region, New Albertson’s Inc., said, “We think about relationships relevant for the local community.” For his company, that means things like sustainability, local products and connecting with locals. “It’s not just product – it’s authentic, real service, connecting, knowing them by name.”

Sue Klug, SVP and CMO, Unified Grocers Inc., said independent grocers are in “a wonderful spot for connecting in terms of local … that’s difficult for a chain with thousands of stores to connect with that kind of intimacy.”

Connecting with the new consumer means broadening involvement in non-traditional media. “We have to go where this consumer is and on her purchasing cycle,” Dorer said.

Further, Dye asserted, “Our employee base has to reflect the consumers we’re serving. How do we be relevant for these employees?”

Klug agreed: “They want to understand why you’re here. When I started, it was just about having a job. That doesn’t work now. It’s about communities – tying what we do to why we do it.” She referenced the new initiative by the Network of Executive Women when adding, “Are we going to be able to breed all the talent that’s coming? It’s up to us to create the culture that allows this generation to flourish.”

And much like Millennials, retailers and suppliers need to adopt a broader world view. “Become more globally connected so you can spot the trends earlier,” Dorer urged, acknowledging the biggest challenge is reconfiguring the supply chain for product customization. “For us, ‘one size fits all’ is dead.”

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