The sandwich I bought for lunch came in a compost-friendly cardboard box that proclaimed the product had no "sell by" date because it was "made TODAY!" It was from one of the many new carry-out restaurants promoting their offerings as "fresh," made with "natural ingredients," and as "good, honest" food.
Since my Cobb Salad has never lied to me, and I'm not sure what an "unnatural" ingredient might be, I find this confusing. This is because I am not a millennial.
Apparently, the key to a millennial's heart is preservative-free. Not to mention globally sourced, sustainable and—most important of all—convenient. A 2015 survey reported that almost 40 percent of millennials eschew breakfast cereal because it is too inconvenient to clean up after eating it.
The average Millennial is a bundle of contradictions who binge drinks but doesn’t smoke, and I must admit that some of their habits and preferences bewilder me.
But beyond their preference for granola bars or smoothies over Wheaties, millennials are reshaping long-established patterns of consumer spending in today’s marketplace. They don’t buy TVs because they watch their Netflix shows on laptops. They view owning a car as a burden rather than a passage to freedom. They’d rather spend disposable income on travel and other experiences than material possessions, meaning that they defer home ownership while going on the dream vacations their parents saved for years to afford.
However, I’ve come to believe the most important thing about millennials is their relationship with the older generations. Millennials not only get along with their parents, they socialize with us. On purpose. This trend shows no signs of slowing down; according to one study, an incredible 85% of teens today name one of their parents as their best friend.
Here’s the kicker: more than one-third of millennials of all ages say they influence what products their parents buy, what stores and restaurants they visit and what trips they take. This makes millennials vital, both in their own right and as liaisons to older generations.
If you believe yourself impervious to millennial influences, ask yourself: How often do you read the newspaper instead of catching up with the headlines online? How many times do you order from Amazon instead of going to the store? When’s the last time you hailed a cab instead of ordering a ride on Uber? Do you ever catch yourself texting rather than picking up the phone?
At the rate they’re spreading their influence, it won’t be long until each of us could pass as a millennial—at least, in terms of our attitudes and buying patterns.
Now if only they could teach us to program our VCRs.