When comparing the differences between generations, it's tempting to fall on lazy stereotypes. For example, that older consumers favour nostalgia and brands steeped in history whereas younger consumers prefer the shiny and new. Or that older consumers want the reassurance of brick and mortar, whereas the younger ones rate the sanitisation and convenience of a computer screen.
This is far too simplistic. Our study shows that the differences are driven by fundamental changes to our society, in the face of social, cultural and technological trends.
“Young people truly care about what their purchasing power can do for the world," said My Life My Say chief excecutive, Mete Coban. "The recent Nike advert with Colin Kaepernick demonstrates that our generation expect brands to be agents of social change. Opinium’s Most Connected Brands study highlights the need for brands to rethink how their business model places social inclusion at the core of their strategy.”
Major generational trends
A brand for me
Younger generations increasingly want brands they can identify with. The most straightforward example is Pepsi, which clearly markets itself as a product for the young and beautiful. However, more tricky is forging a connection based on the broader brand purpose and shared values. Nike is a great recent example, choosing to polarise opinion with its Colin Kaepernick-fronted campaign, which both inflamed tensions in the US and led to an increase in online sales but hit its stock prices.
Global commercialisation and changing tastes
Another trend is how global food and drink are affecting our culture and tastes. The social aspect of hanging out at Starbucks resonates with younger consumers. The side-effect however, is that coffee has overtaken tea as the nation’s favourite drink, relegating the relevance of brands like Tetley among millennial audiences.
Functional versus aspirational value
Our list shows that all generations like a bargain, however, perceptions of what represents ‘value’ differs. For the older generation, saving money on their weekly shop is important. This is only highlighted by their draw towards shops like Aldi, Lidl and Home Bargains. For the younger generation, low cost apparel from Primark and TK Maxx enables them to mimic the catwalk at a fraction of the cost.
A revolution in content choices
One of the most striking differences lies in how the generations consume content. Auntie (the BBC) still holds a special place in the heart of the older generation, whereas the greater personalisation, choice and immediacy of streaming services (Netflix and YouTube) appeal more to youngsters.
The pervasive force of tech
By far the most disruptive influence between the generations lies in technology. It has shifted how we communicate - just think of WhatsApp and Facebook - and shopping, with brick and mortar retailers like Next and Debenhams losing out to online retailers like ASOS who remain popular among young consumers.
Wez Eathorne is a research director at Opinium