Today, the youth within the age gap of 20 – 30, commonly called the twentysumthing has become the most profitable segment for marketers. After all, this slice of the larger young adult market is nearly 38 million strong (and growing), spends more than $150 billion annually, is predisposed towards early adoption, and the bulk of its brand loyalties are still in a state of flux. Outperform your competition and you’ll generate immediate gains to the bottom line while building lasting brand loyalties. Miss the boat and you risk giving away a priceless competitive advantage.
To be successful, packaging must address the unique mindset and leading behavioral drivers of today’s young adults. The market’s psyche is driven by several key factors:
Young adults are evolving at warp speed in language, lifestyle, usage, consideration set, and attitudes. What’s cool today, may be passé tomorrow: brands can become obsolete faster than a speeding train.
Today’s young adults are acutely aware that they are a highly desirable target market. In a time when advertising has infiltrated pop culture, twentysomethings are well versed with the dynamics of marketing and sales: they’ve “been there, done that”. Don’t be fooled… the market may look naïve, but it’s composed of highly experienced and enlightened consumers.
Having been touched by crime, AIDS, drugs, corporate downsizing, and an endless parade of political scandals, twentysomethings expect to be mugged by marketers. (Sad, but true.) Product claims are instantly interpreted as hype and greeted with intense skepticism.
Packaging can, and should, help facilitate faster decision-making. Young adults live in an accelerated culture where time is a precious commodity. No matter what their age or socioeconomic status, they are struggling to balance work and leisure. Products and services that deliver increased productivity or improved quality of life will be duly rewarded.
With the advent of the Global Village, young adults are taking full advantage of what the world has to offer in music, food, culture, fashion, travel, ad infinitum. They love to “adventure seek” and have the financial resources to do so. Except for a few lucky brands, young adults typically brand surf from one product to the next. As such, this audience is usually the first to adopt a new product, brand, or line extension.
Today’s young adults are the most ethnically diverse group in American history. Remember, folks, this is the “MTV Generation”. A gangster rap video here, an alternative rock video there, Tommy Hilfiger in the inner city, FUBU in the suburbs have blurred the lines that once formally separated one ethnic group from another. The implications on packaging strategy have yet to be fully understood.
The market is incredibly sophisticated across a variety of product categories, but by no means all. The average young adult may be quite knowledgeable about high involvement categories such as fashion, electronics, music, computers, and entertainment. In fact, in such categories, their role as Early Adopters and Influencers is nothing short of profound. Conversely, peripheral categories (read: MOST product categories) are low involvement and, hence, call for split decision making. “Um, I’ll take that… ah, THAT piece of gum please.” Packaging can play an instrumental role in young adult purchasing because the market is NOT as sophisticated about most product categories as it would like you to believe.
Also, this segment is strongly categorized for having a very strong network value. Social networks play an important role in this segment.
If you do have a product for this segment, do ensure that you consider these factors while developing your marketing mix and designing your 4Ps or 7Ps as the case may be.
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