Depending on who you talk to, Millennials are either the scourge or saviors of our world. On the one hand, they’re blamed for helping the demise of casual dining restaurants, causing the cost of avocados to skyrocket, and ruining sales for heritage beer brands like Budweiser and Coors. But on the flip side, thanks to Millennials, divorce rates in the United States are at historic lows, and topics like diversity, inclusion, and work-life balance aren’t just lofty concepts but employee requirements that workplaces are incorporating.
So who is a Millennial?
The Millennial generation is defined as anyone born between the years of 1981 through 1996, meaning that as of right now, they’re anywhere from 23 to 38 years old. They’re typically the children of Baby Boomers, which also explains why there are so many of them. Regardless of whether you’re shaking your fist at them or admire their spunk, there’s one irrefutable fact about Millennials — they are currently the most important age group in the U.S. by buying power.
This savvy group craves authenticity, transparency, and customization in their everyday lives and demand that the goods or services they purchase meet those expectations. This translates to expecting the brands they purchase to have an ethos that isn’t driven solely by profit. Millennials have forced marketing and advertising teams as well as consumer brands to rethink how they create, market, and advertise their products. And we’re not just talking about products for themselves but for their pets, too.
The Millennial Pet Parent — A Profile
Everyone loves their pets, but Millennials truly view their pets as not just members of the family, but as if they are children. For many people in this age group, long before they thought about having kids, their pets were their babies. And those furballs continue to be their babies even after children enter the picture. So, as they head to the grocery store, pet store, or online to shop for essentials for Fido or Fluffy, only the best will do. This usually means selecting brands that are best able to align with the following priorities: sustainability, superior taste and quality, clean labeling, and ease of use. Taste and quality are important product factors, but as it relates to packaging, your main concern will be quality control to ensure that your packaging can survive the shipping process. So let’s break these other points down further and explain how that translates into packaging and design.
Millennials are very focused on their food supply chains. They want to know what’s going into the products that they or their pets are eating and what’s happening during the production process. An emphasis on sustainability can include ethically sourced raw goods that don’t negatively impact local communities or ecological zones through questionable pesticides or production policies. However, other factors include fair trade programs that help to build developing or depressed communities as well as highlighting fair living wages for all workers. This often translates to avoiding conglomerate brands that rely on industrial agricultural complexes or those that have a history of mistreating employees and surrounding communities. But how does this work with packaging?
For packaging, sustainability means focusing on minimizing your carbon footprint and impact on the environment. That still leaves you with a wide range of options. Some include recycled paper and plastics or plastic and printing inks derived from plants. Maybe your packaging is infused with seeds so that customers can later plant it and enjoy a beautiful flower garden. Other smart factors include reducing your overall packaging size to eliminate excess weight. That translates to lower shipping costs and lower packaging production costs that you can pass on to your customers to keep your product affordable. And finally, consider using greener transport methods that either feature vehicles with reduced emissions or that pay toward carbon credits.
What does clean labeling mean? It has two meanings here. From the perspective of a Millennial shopper, we’re talking about a clear ingredient list that isn’t full of hard-to-pronounce chemicals, disappointing additives like “chicken byproduct,” or unclear points of origin — such as not clearly labeling that your product is made overseas. To this end, we can’t control what you’re putting in your products or where you’re making them. That’s going to be between you and your production and R&D teams.
But in the literal sense, clean labeling can also mean a package with a design that’s easy to understand and highlights your unique selling propositions or USPs. This is an important feature for any packaging decision because you have only a few moments to woo a potential customer into picking up your product as she walks down the aisle or placing it in her shopping cart while she browses online. The packaging needs to clearly define what’s in it and why it’s beneficial to her pet. It should answer the five W’s (who what, why, when, and where) and showcase why you’re better than your competition. Remember, Millennials crave authenticity and transparency from their preferred brands. So, ask yourself if your package design is answering these questions:
- Does it clarify sustainability, an ethical supply chain, or highlight a clean ingredient list with easy-to-pronounce food that’s free from artificial ingredients or preservatives?
- Is it clear why this product is superior to traditional offerings from competitors?
- If you support a local charity or animal organization, is this prominently mentioned?
- Did you share your brand story, why you focus on the pet niche, and why you aren’t solely driven by profit?
Ease of Use
This should be pretty obvious, but if your packaging is impossible to open, hard to close, or is plain terrible at keeping the ingredients fresh before it reaches the expiration date, it’s safe to say that you might not get many repeat customers. With so many competitors vying for a consumer’s attention, your packaging might be the deciding factor over whether someone buys your product and becomes a repeat shopper. You may find that this is a balancing act between not just sourcing sustainable packaging materials that can withstand the shipping process, but that also maintain freshness through the expiration date once the product is in use.