Study finds millennials not so brand-conscious

The generation's parents are more pragmatic than is generally assumed.

THE KANSAS CITY STAROctober 15, 2013 

Want to bust a stereotype? Just track the shopping habits of the 25- to 34-year-old age group.

You're more likely to find them in the aisles at Wal-Mart or Lowe's than at H&M or Sephora, according to a new study published by Barkley, a Kansas City, Mo.-based advertising and marketing agency.

The agency dug into consumer records and attitude surveys covering about 10.8 million Americans in the older half of the millennial generation and found some things that ran counter to the oft-stated impressions of millennials as brand- and trend-conscious consumers.

Some of them are. But something causes a shopping sea change: parenthood.

Jeff Fromm, Barkley's executive vice president, said the data reveal "a new American pragmatism."

There's nothing like a baby to turn a shopper into a pragmatist.

The agency sees its "Marketing to Millennials" report as a guide for companies that don't want their messages to miss the target consumer - who's likely conscious about health, the environment, social causes, saving money and raising children with strong family values.

"Let's remind ourselves that the oldest millennials became young adults around 1999," said David Gutting, strategy director at Barkley, in introducing the report. "They have experienced the dot-com bust, Sept. 11, and large banking and housing crises. Further, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were largely fought by millennials."

The research metadata showed that Wal-Mart is the practical, go-to shopping choice for millennial parents. It also showed that parenthood changes many brand preferences.

Nike remains the top favorite brand, pre- and post-parenthood, but other pre-kid favorites - such as Sony, Gap, Apple and Levi's - sink in preference in favor of Target, Old Navy, and, logically, Carter's.

Demographers usually define the 78 million-strong millennial generation as those born between 1978 and 1995. About 31 million of them have become parents. About 9,000 millennial women give birth every day.

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