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Strategy, Design

How the Millennial Mindset Influences Packaging Design.

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Millennial Demographic

Millennials are a desirable market for companies of all kinds, with the Millennial generation boasting a total spending power of $1.4 trillion in 2020.

Yep, all those Baby Boomers had kids, and now those kids are grown up and ready to throw their weight into the world. But how do companies reach this coveted market? After all, Millennials are notorious for being the “me” generation, and companies have spent years trying to adapt their marketing assets to cater to this market.

But reaching these customers doesn’t have to be so complicated. With a few simple facts about Generation Y and a little packaging design strategy in your corner, you’ll capture this market’s attention and keep them engaged with your products.

The Millennial Mindset.

Millennials are defined as those born between 1981 and 1996, putting Generation Y between the ages of 24 and 38 in 2020.

This is a group that catches a lot of flak for being self-centered and self-absorbed. They were the first generation to “want it all,” to ditch the outdated ideologies of their Baby Boomer parents and realize that they were the ones with the power in the buyer/seller relationship.

This mindset is in stark contrast to the thought process held by older generations. In days gone by, buyers had fewer shopping options at their disposal. Any consumer packaged good (CPG) they wanted would need to be fulfilled by small, local shops near their homes, as Amazon and ecommerce were still futuristic fantasies. As such, this generation tended to stick with brands they had access to and were familiar with. They built long-term relationships built on mutual trust and loyalty.

Of course, it didn’t take long for the computing revolution to change the game. Thanks to the internet and the rise of ecommerce, kids of the Millennial era had access to more shopping options, brands, and products than ever before. This simple change formed the basis of the Millennial mindset – and how brands should speak to them.

What Millennials Value: Shared Identity.

When the internet came, the Boomer mentality of sticking with one trusted brand went out the door. Millennial buyers found more logic in switching between brands based on their personal preferences, prices, or other values – such as eco-friendliness – that shaped their sense of identity. In the Millennial mind, products aren’t just products; they’re extensions of ourselves and our values.

These trends are crucial to understanding what the Millennial market values in the products they buy and how CPG manufacturers can reach them through their packaging design.

According to a 2020 consumer culture report, Millennials emerged as the most impulsive and most easily influenced of the generations studied, with some helpful insights on purchasing behavior:

  • 82% of Millennials would buy a product on sight if they liked it enough
  • 83% prefer to buy from companies that share their values
  • 71% would pay more for a product if some of the proceeds went to charity

This tracks with what we know about Millennials. They’re a group that wants it their way (which we’ll blame on the Amazon “buy it now!” culture), they’ll show loyalty to companies who share their values, and they’ll even pay for more for the privilege of supporting those brands.

For packaging designers, the biggest takeaway here is that your packaging needs to go beyond mere description. Your designs need to make it clear that your product is about more than the product itself; it’s about a shared value or ideal that the Millennial consumer can connect with.

Addressing Millennials Through Packaging Design.

We know that Millennials respond to messaging about a company’s vision, ideals, and values. This is a good place to start.

Layout and Design Features

If your company has a specific selling point related to its values, include it in your packaging design. Typical examples here include claims about the product being organic, how the company shares a percentage of its proceeds to environmental conservation, or how the package itself is 100% recyclable.

This comes back to the old marketing mantra of selling the benefit, not the feature. It doesn’t matter what the product is. If you can make your company values clear to potential buyers, you’ll have a better chance of connecting with Millennial buyers. (Having an eye-popping packaging design doesn’t hurt, either.)

Packaging Material

If Millennials are the first online shopping generation, then each product’s packaging doesn’t matter as much, right?

Not quite. While Millennials do enjoy online shopping, it won’t be replacing brick-and-mortar retail anytime soon. The above Consumer Culture report found that 68% of Millennial shoppers prefer to find products in the store rather than online, meaning that competition on the retail shelf is still the name of the game.

Put some thought into your packaging material, particularly if your brand messaging supports ideas of a  low carbon footprint and eco-friendliness. Your layout talks the talk, but your packaging material has to walk the walk, so to speak. Claims about eco-consciousness won’t go far if you jam your products into petroleum-based plastic cases.

Also, consider how different types of packaging could be reused and repurposed. Besides the obvious green aspect, consumers show a growing preference for product packaging with multiple uses.  This is tied to the Millennials’ well-documented preference for sustainability. And it’s just good practice for any CPG brand that wants to lessen its carbon footprint.

Reaching Millennials: Speak to Their Values.

Above all, Millennial buyers want to feel like they’re making a positive impact on the world with the products they buy. Your brand should share any positive messaging about your mission, your commitment to your workers, your carbon reduction goals, or your charitable efforts. Think of it as selling your brand more than selling the product. A Millennial can go online and find a thousand bars of soap from different vendors across the world that might be identical to yours – but it’s your packaging and brand messaging that sets your product apart from the crowd.

When your brand can clearly articulate its values within an aesthetically pleasing and eco-friendly packaging design, you’ll be a frontrunner for each Millennial shopper’s attention.