Marketing to Young Adults

By Mash Bonigala

A recent J.D. Powers and Associates study looked into the shopping habits and attitudes of young people between the ages of 22 and 29, asking them to rank different brands according to their preferences. What they found has huge implications for small business owners everywhere.

When the twenty-somethings were asked to name their favorite brands, value brands had particularly high rankings. For example, Old Navy was up with Anthropologie when it comes to fashion, while Subway was one of the highest valued restaurant brands. This suggests that the new generation of young adults has one preference that is usually associated with older adults: value.

What exactly is value? Don’t confuse this term with cheapness. Value means that the consumer is getting the most benefits for their hard earned dollar. The harder it becomes to earn that dollar, as in poor economies, the more benefits they expect. Subway, one of the top brands in this survey, promises fresh, healthy food for a relatively miniscule sum. Old Navy promises a variety of fashionable choices at an affordable price point. Neither of these brands is necessarily the cheapest option, but merely the one that has presented their brand as offering high value for the dollar.

This suggests a practical mindset and a love of getting something more for your money than an expensive designer label. It also poses new challenges for companies marketing to young adults. There was a time when young adults wanted decadence, premium brands, and unique benefits. However, those decades are over. No longer is the premium choice going to be chosen as a matter of fact by twenty-somethings. Like their parents and grandparents, these consumers are thinking about how to get the most for every dollar. If you want them to buy your product, you have to offer that little something more.

Clearly value is not the only brand aspect that appeals to this market. For example, Anthropologie and Bath and Body Works, neither of which is a ‘value’ brand, both were highly ranked in the survey. These brands offer not a low price, but a high level of quality and uniqueness. In other words, there is hope for premium brands marketing to this value-oriented group of consumers.  However, it is certainly notable value brands are being chosen more and more as the most loved brands of this age group.

Another key belief that the study found in this age set was the feeling that, while moving from job to job may be a necessity in the early years of a career, they long for the security that comes with staying with the same company for decades. This has interesting implications for companies trying to sell their brand to young adults. While they are willing to ‘jump ship’ and switch brands routinely to get a better value for their money, they likely also long to find a brand and stick with it. If you can position your business as this brand, you are likely to find huge success in the world of small business.