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4 Ways COVID-19 Has Shifted Millennial Values

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4 Ways COVID-19 Has Shifted Millennial Values

By: Shelby Howard, Strategist

COVID-19 forced us into a new reality, some called it a new normal. Like any major event, it will have a lasting impact on our behaviors, beliefs, and values. Some will be short-term, but there is an acceleration and evolution of macro-trends, particularly among Millennials, that brands and marketers should be aware of and employ in order to resonate with this audience.

1. Acting Real to Being Real

From: I connect with brands who put their money where their mouth is.

To: I connect with brands who are “real and organic” over “packaged and perfect.”

Millennials were already demanding an unparalleled level of authenticity from brands. This pandemic has peeled back the curtains and shown consumers what it means to be “real” and how brands can communicate that to consumers.

COVID-19 has taken away the luxury of being a perfect, polished, and in control brand, and Millennials identify with and appreciate this raw, honest, imperfect portrayal. They embrace the Snuggle fabric softener ad shot entirely in the Creative Director’s own laundry room, or Zara asking their models to style themselves and shoot in their own homes. Millennials connect with the brands that channel this unprecedented time as a shared experience (Source: Gartner).

Action: How can brands take advantage of this opportunity to peel back the curtain and show Millennial consumers who they are all the time, not just who they are on a controlled set?

2. Local Love to Local Living

From: I see “local” as a fun, trendy interest.

To: I see “local” as a way I can add value to my life, my experiences, and my community.

For Millennials, “local” often means an instagrammable, farmers market outing with friends – more of a hobby than a necessity. COVID-19 has taken “supporting local” from something fun to do, to something that needs to happen in order for communities to get through difficult times together. Millennials now have a higher conscience of how their locality plays into their lives and the lives of others with 80% now feeling more connected to their community than before the pandemic (Source: Accenture).

Although they are connected to the world, they now have a new understanding of the power of proximity and the role they can play in their local community that didn’t exist before.

Action: How can brands highlight ways they support the neighborhoods Millennials live and work in and lean into consumers’ revamped interest in their locality?

3. Experience Economy to In-housing

From: Experiences play an important role in my life

To: I can now enjoy more experiences from my own home.

Millennials value experiences, and were already capitalizing on streaming services, subscription boxes, meal kits, and more at-home offerings pre-pandemic. However, sheltering in place and social distancing has resulted in a large increase in experiences now available for consumers to take part in from home, with 71% claiming they had tried at least one new digital media activity since March (Source: WARC).

These experiences are often more engaging like cooking with your favorite influencer on YouTube versus more traditional, passive experiences like binging a Netflix show. In many cases, they are also more practical, with DIY making a huge comeback and now being seen more as an experience and less of a task. Social feeds are full of friends making bread from scratch or taking on new creative hobbies – and enjoying it.

All of these new experiences from home are changing the way we think about the space we call home. Home is now so much more than a place to sleep, it’s a place for experiences, for discovery, and it’s also making consumers reevaluate how they spend their time.

Action: As Millennial consumers evaluate how they spend their time at home, how can brands help them experience more either alone or with their family, loved ones, or roommates?

4. Betterment to Enrichment

From: I am always adding new behaviors into my life to better myself.

To: I prefer forms of self-improvement that are built-in to my day.

Millennials have an unquenchable thirst for improving themselves through better health, new skills, or expanded knowledge. However, Millennials only have so much money and time in a day. Adding yet another task to an already busy day or joining another membership is exhausting, expensive, and it’s only contributing to Millennial burnout.

Millennials are using the extra time at home, not to take hours of online classes, but instead to find and implement more seamless and integrated behaviors into their lives that add value and get them one step closer to a new skill or healthy habit – a better version of themselves. They want better-for-you beverages, snacks with added health benefits, and apps that save money for you automatically. Millennials report that undertaking activities or behaviors like these at home as a means to improve themselves is often less stressful than going to see specialists or visiting health centers or gyms (Source: WARC).

Consumers are now expecting to see some added benefit or value from the actions and behaviors that already make up their day to day.

Action: How can brands find ways to help Millennial consumers become their best selves?

Millennials are watching, and will choose to spend their dollars and engage with brands that align with their values. If marketers want to reach this influential generation, these trends will be important to stay on top of and incorporate into brand messaging and programs – both now and long-term.

[Rileigh Boyd, Growth & Development Apprentice, also contributed to this piece.]